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Every year, college sports programs generate more than $1 billion in revenue.

That’s billion, with a “b.”

That’s a staggering number.

The premier college athletes, however, despite being the driving force behind all those dollars, receive a relative pittance for their services.

Yes, the best athletes do receive full scholarships, which can be worth as much as $250,000. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Just ask any parent.

Still, when you compare that amount with the total money being generated, it hardly seems to be adequate compensation.

That’s why we fully support California’s Fair Pay to Play Act. That bill could prove to be a real game-changer for college athletics. It would allow college athletes to be paid for use of their names and likenesses.

The California State Assembly passed the bill, 73-0, while the state Senate passed it 39-0. That’s a total vote of of 112-0. By any measure, that’s decisive. The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom, waiting for his signature to make it official.

Here’s hoping that Newsom signs the bill.

NCAA opposition: The NCAA, naturally, is viscerally opposed to the bill, clinging desperately to its quaint 20th-century ideas of college “amateurism.”

The organization also says that if the bill becomes law, California colleges will have unfair recruiting and competitive advantages over schools in other states. NCAA president Mark Emmert has warned that, if the act becomes law, his organization would have to make California colleges ineligible to participate in NCAA national championships.

That reaction is to be expected. The NCAA is simply protecting its fiefdom — and more importantly, its cash cow.

The nation’s biggest college athletic programs and the NCAA have grown rich on the backs of our college athletes. That’s led to bloated coaching staffs and administrations and luxurious facilities.

Meanwhile, the high-profile athletes who are most responsible for that money can’t even work as summer coaches or personal instructors.

Edsall a supporter: One of the biggest supporters of the bill is Susquehannock High School graduate Randy Edsall, who is the head football coach of the UConn Huskies. Edsall has long been a proponent of NCAA reform.

“I hope every state in the union passes the bill,” Edsall said recently. Edsall, in fact, would go even further. He’d like college athletes to be paid outright.

The California bill wouldn’t go that far, but it's a start in the right direction. The bill would allow athletes to make money by selling memorabilia, signing autographs and appearing in TV or online ads. At present, college athletes are banned from such activities.

That’s ridiculous. Just ask Edsall, who strongly believes that our elected officials will have to lead the way on the issue.

“The NCAA’s not going to do anything,” Edsall said. “They’ll screw it up if they have to, anyway, just like everything else.”

High-profile players will benefit: It should be noted that the California bill would likely most benefit high-profile players on high-profile teams. For instance, what do you think Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley could’ve made from endorsements during their time at Penn State?

It would’ve been a nice chunk of change — and they deserved it. They’re a very big reason that Beaver Stadium was packed with more than 100,000 fans on football Saturdays in recent years.

Eventually, we would like to see the California bill passed in every state or passed by Congress. That would stifle the NCAA argument about any unfair advantages for schools in certain states.

There seems little doubt, however, that change is coming for the NCAA. The writing is on the wall.

Now we just need Newsom to put the writing on the bill.

That would likely start a crescendo of change that would eventually drag the NCAA into the 21st century, albeit kicking and screaming.

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