Government

Iowa Senate bill calls for trust funds for college athletes

The Senate chambers are seen Dec. 19 at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
The Senate chambers are seen Dec. 19 at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A bipartisan proposal to establish a framework for allowing college athletes to benefit from the promotional use of their names, images and likenesses was introduced Tuesday in the Iowa Senate.

Senate File 2058 by Sens. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, and Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, would prevent universities from penalizing student-athletes from financially benefiting from the use of their names, images and likenesses. The bill would allow universities to place the money in a trust the student-athlete can access when their eligibility has expired.

“The current NCAA system is unsustainable as more and more money floods into major college athletics while the students who put their bodies on the line are completely frozen out of any right to benefit from their labors and sacrifices,” Boulton said. “We hope our universities work with us to put together a fair solution to this problem, something that is approaching a critical stage as other states and courts continue to weigh in on the jarring imbalance in rights that currently exists as a result of current rules and regulations.”

The sponsors come at the issue from unique perspectives. Boulton, a labor attorney, has taught collegiate sports law classes. Zaun had a son who played NCAA Division I football.

In the House, Reps. Joe Mitchell, R-Mount Pleasant, and Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, have been working with former University of Iowa football player Marvin McNutt on a similar proposal for college athlete trust funds.

“If they have bipartisan consensus over there ... we’re willing to look at that,” Mitchell said.

Smith and Mitchell began discussions after the California Legislature adopted a law, scheduled to go into effect in 2023, that would end the practice of student-athletes being compensated with an education rather than a salary. It would allow college athletes to hire agents and to be paid for the use of their names, likenesses and images. Under the legislation, individual schools and the NCAA would not be able to ban students from earning this compensation.

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“If we’re going to have these guys go out there and play and make money for the universities — and the coaches can make money off endorsements, but the players can’t — that’s where I see the problem,” Mitchell said.

“These guys should have the right to the fruits of their own labor,” he said. “A lot of these guys won’t play pro, but they might be able to make some money in college. There’s no other job in college where you can’t make money off your own labor.”

With the increase in sports wagering, Boulton said the Senate plan would include “insulation between today’s game and compensation.”

“There’s money all around this system, and on an island without any resources coming to them are the student-athletes who are putting their bodies on the line,” he said. “NCAA Division I football has become for all intents and purposes the minor leagues of the NFL. The student-athletes who are participating in that minor league have no say on the resources that could be coming to them.”

He hopes the proposal will start a conversation with universities to address the situation. So far, Boulton said, the NCAA has been slow to react.

“It’s time to create some solutions now,” Boulton said.

SF 2058 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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