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House Panel Approves Plan To Pay College Athletes For Endorsements

John Pemble
IPR file

An Iowa House subcommittee has passed a bill that would allow college athletes to earn money from endorsement deals, despite concerns raised by university groups that it would add to a growing patchwork of state laws.

Under the bill (HF 2282), a student could hire an agent and make a contract based on their likeness as college player as long as they don’t create a conflict with another contract held by their athletic department.

Universities market their teams based on student athletes’ names and jersey numbers, said Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, so players should have the same opportunity.

“While people may be able to make money off of you wearing that jersey on Saturday, you can’t afford shoes for your siblings or yourself, or groceries for yourself,” Smith said at a subcommittee meeting Monday. “It is an issue we have.”

After California lawmakers moved to allow student-athlete compensation, the NCAA Board of Governors said it would develop national rules along the same lines by January 2021. Keith Saunders, a lobbyist for the Iowa Board of Regents, said the legislature should wait for the NCAA to act in order to avoid confusion for colleges and athletic conferences working in different parts of the country.

“New rules are coming,” Saunders said. “Congress is also working on it, and I realize not everyone has the greatest of faith in Congress or the NCAA but that’s where the solution’s going to have to come from.”

The bill passed unanimously in the House subcommittee. A full committee must approve either the House or Senate version (SF 2058) of the bill by the end of the week for it to be available for debate this session.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa