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What does California's war with the NCAA mean for the Utes?

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With California lawmakers moving to allow their collegiate athletes to earn money beyond their scholarships, rival teams across the country are forced to evaluate how they can continue to sell their opportunities to high school's rising stars. (Photo: KUTV)

Recruiting for the Utes may be getting more difficult.

With California lawmakers moving to allow their collegiate athletes to earn money beyond their scholarships, rival teams across the country are forced to evaluate how they can continue to sell their opportunities to high school's rising stars.

"I think the NCAA is going to have to react and make some legislation or do something to make it a level playing field," said the University of Utah's head football coach, Kyle Whittingham.

While California schools cannot pay athletes directly, the Fair Pay to Play Act would allow for athletes to hire agents, secure endorsement deals and sell autographs — money-making endeavors illegal everywhere else.

"This is a tool that these coaches would use if other states didn't follow," said former Ute safety Steve Tate.

"Coaches right now need anything and everything to create leverage when they go out and recruit."

Athletes, Tate said, have tremendous followings. Social media helps a lot.

"I compare it to the influencers of Instagram, right? They've got an influence, they've got a following, and companies want to be a part of that. The same goes for these student athletes," he said.

The lure of rich side deals may draw local talent to one of the U's four Pac-12 rivals in California.

"That one recruit you lose out on to UCLA or USC could be extremely meaningful for your team and for your talent level," Tate said.

2News reached out to Utah lawmakers in leadership roles with both parties. Everyone said they were watching the situation closely. They said they were eager to learn, but neither party had any specific plan for the upcoming session.

Whittingham wouldn't dismiss the idea of lobbying legislators if the imbalance is not solved before California's law takes effect in 2023.

"I guess that's a possibility, we'll just have to see ... what course it takes and then how things unfold," he said.