Providing just compensation to student-athletes — who, aside from their scholarships and a few nominal stipends, are locked out of the revenue created by the $13 billion college athletics industry — constitutes important rationale for laws challenging the NCAA’s amateurism system. However, it’s clear that the competitive atmosphere of college sports is also playing a role in the ongoing political intervention into NCAA amateurism. Since the California State Legislature took the reins of the college amateurism debate last September, enacting a bill that would allow California student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness starting in 2023, political intervention has emerged as a key tool to pressure NCAA reform. Obviously, the California state legislature’s willingness to tackle the issue of NCAA amateurism would not benefit USC in relation to rivals UCLA, Cal and Stanford, which are also located in California. But an advantage over programs in other states would give USC (along with the other California schools) a competitive boost at a time when they are struggling to maintain national relevance in football and men’s basketball, the two sports that would be affected most by updated amateurism rules due to their huge revenue-producing capacity. Last year, the California law presented the NCAA with two unappealing options: punish the California NCAA schools for non-compliance with its amateurism rules when the law goes into effect in 2023 or risk giving the California schools a competitive advantage by allowing their student-athletes to profit from name, image and likeness while student-athletes at schools in other states cannot. In the end, the NCAA caved, promising to reconsider its amateurism rules altogether to comply with the California law. Now, other states are considering laws that would, in turn, give their own in-state NCAA programs a competitive advantage and possibly pressure the NCAA into further reform. Also, from a competitive standpoint, USC Athletics is poised to benefit from further changes to the NCAA’s amateurism model. California’s passage of the name, image and likeness law demonstrates its status as a state at the forefront of new, innovative legal thinking and hints that it will continue to mount the most aggressive challenges to amateurism, regardless of whether they comply with NCAA rules. This will benefit USC and other California universities, allowing them to offer student-athletes the most generous compensation. The NCAA’s submission to the will of the California State Legislature seems likely to usher in a period of upheaval for the NCAA’s amateurism model, which should be welcomed by college sports fans. After years of rejecting pleas to fairly compensate student-athletes, the NCAA clearly will not reform on its own accord. While some proposed state laws relating to student-athletes’ rights to compensation are not ideal, coercive action by state lawmakers is a necessary means of dismantling the unsustainable status quo in college sports. 2020 will likely prove to be a pivotal year for the future of the NCAA, with over two dozen state legislatures currently deliberating similar laws. Some of the proposals being debated, including a bill under consideration in New York that would allocate a share of ticket revenue as payment for student-athletes, would go even further than the law California passed. Jake Mequet is a junior writing about sports and law. His column, “Court in Session,” runs every other Monday.