Mike Leach slams California college athlete bill: They ‘have trouble keeping their streets clean’

Ryan Young
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Washington State coach Mike Leach isn't a fan of a California bill that would allow college athletes to profit off their likeness. (AP/Michael Wyke)

Washington State coach Mike Leach isn’t a fan of a new bill working its way through the California state legislature that would allow college athletes to profit off their likeness.

The Fair Pay to Play Act — which passed through both the California State Senate and State Assembly last week — would allow student-athletes in the state to profit from the use of their own name, image and likeness, and pursue similar endorsement opportunities provided to Olympic athletes.

Leach, though, doesn’t think California lawmakers have any business entering into collegiate athletics. In his mind, they should be focusing their efforts elsewhere.

“The state of California has trouble keeping their streets clean right now, so my thought is that they probably ought to focus on that,” Leach said Monday. “That’s just one guy’s opinion and I’m sure that I’m probably wrong, but at the rate that California is handling their infrastructure and some of their other problems, you know, I think that we’ll see how they do with that before I really think it would be that beneficial for the legislature of California to enter into college football. If you see benefits to them entering into college football, I’d love to hear because they seem determined to do it.”

The Fair Pay to Play Act is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. While the bill has picked up some high-profile endorsements — including from LeBron James, Draymond Green, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and presidential candidate Andrew Yang — the NCAA has called the bill “unconstitutional.” It said the law would create an unfair recruiting advantage and even reportedly threatened California schools in a letter, implying that they could be banned from future NCAA championships. The NCAA officially formed a working group to study the issue in May.

California is not alone on the issue, either. A pair of South Carolina lawmakers are attempting to introduce a similar bill in January.

While there is still a lot that needs to be ironed out before the bill would be implemented in 2023, Leach and the Cougars would likely be directly affected by it. Four schools in the Pac-12 conference are in California, which could hinder his and other coaches’ ability to recruit players fairly.

That, Leach said, is the biggest issue with the bill.

“If you create a recruiting advantage beyond what already exists, I think it’s going to be very difficult,” Leach said. “I think there will be a huge imbalance and you’ll destroy college football, and I think that we have to be very careful of that … Then, of course, are we going to have a draft? Are we going to have trading? Are we going to have free agency? How far does all this stuff go?

“I think we ought to be careful with that, or maybe we ought to just have minor league football.”

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