Iowa Hawkeyes

Lawmakers, Iowa faculty say athletes should be allowed to profit

Delay in NCAA action on name, image and likeness has opened door for state bills

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, discussingg findings of the independent review of issues of racial disparities in th
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, discussingg findings of the independent review of issues of racial disparities in the football program during a news conference in July, was questioned Thursday about compensation for athletes. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

A University of Iowa professor advising athletics called the rules prohibiting student-athletes from making money “sinister” and unfair, saying the players should share in real income, not just scholarships.

“Those days are over where you can take advantage of the athlete like that,” Michael Wright, an associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, told athletics director Gary Barta during the Presidential Committee on Athletics meeting Thursday afternoon. “The athletes making these programs great are the African Americans. That’s the reality.”

Wright asked Barta how the UI planned to come up with a compensation model for men’s basketball and football.

Barta said he disagreed with Wright’s assertion the rules aren’t fair and said scholarships — many that include the full cost of attendance — are valuable.

“Football pays for all 24 sports at the University of Iowa,” Barta said. He said one model schools could consider is eliminating all sports besides basketball and football, but Barta’s not advocating for that.

Wright isn’t the only one calling for student-athlete compensation.

Thursday, Iowa Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, and Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, introduced Senate File 245, which would allow student-athletes to profit from promotional use of their names, images and likenesses as early as July. Six states already have enacted similar legislation.

Part of the reason states are drafting their own laws is because the NCAA hasn’t acted on its promise to set national policy.

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The NCAA announced on Jan. 11 it would postpone voting on proposals to change rules surrounding name, image and likeness and athlete transfer eligibility after receiving a message from the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust division.

The NCAA Board of Governors originally decided in October 2019 they would vote on changes to NIL and transfer eligibility rules by January 2021. In the Jan. 11 news release by the NCAA, Council Chair and athletics director at Pennsylvania Grace Calhoun said: “The Council remains fully committed to modernizing Division I rules in ways that benefit all student-athletes. Unfortunately, external factors require this pause, and the Council will use this time to enhance the proposals.”

The pressure to make a decision on the rule change came as California, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey and Nebraska all passed laws allowing collegiate athletes to receive endorsements. Florida’s law will go into effect as soon as July 1 while Nebraska, California and Colorado laws will go in effect in 2023. New Jersey’s will go in effect no sooner than 2025.

Barta said Thursday there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” with states drafting their own laws.

“I’m not criticizing the NCAA, but I still believe the NCAA should seriously consider going forward with the legislation it had gone so far to create,” he said. “Not doing so has created a vacuum.”

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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