Iowa lawmaker introduces bill to ‘fix’ student-athlete compensation

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Bill: Regent University student-athlete ‘is considered an employee’

Campers gather and listen to instructions during a youth basketball skills camp in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, August 28, 2021. Several Iowa players took advantage of new image and likeness rules named after the NCAA to work as camp coaches. (Nick Rohlman/independent for The Gazette)

In a new era allowing college athletes to receive education-related compensation and earn money through their name, image and likeness, an Iowa lawmaker is seeking to empower the Board of Regents to ” fix the remuneration of student-athletes” in its public universities.

Through a Bill introduced Thursday, Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, proposes that the state define a public university employee “a person who is enrolled at the institution and participates in intercollegiate sport for the institution.”

This would give regents the power to “fix their remuneration”, as they do for their campus presidents, treasurers, professors and other employees.

“This bill provides that a student-athlete at an institution under the control of the State Board of Regents is considered an employee of an institution of the State Board of Regents,” according to the proposal. “The bill also provides for the State Board of Regents to set compensation for student athletes.”

By defining student-athletes as employees, according to the measure, other compensation and benefits provisions governing university employees would also apply to their athletes. The proposal does not specify how, specifically, athlete compensation would be governed or set.

Before and since the U.S. Supreme Court over the summer blocked the NCAA from banning athlete compensation for educational benefits — allowing paid internships, tutoring and equipment and opening the door to student-athletes to begin profiting from their name, image and likeness – states have enacted a patchwork of laws differentiating the degree of winnings players can earn.

Some states — like New Mexico — have laws that help athletes make money from fame, while others — like Mississippi — have laws that get in the way of revenue generation. These laws include caps on how much an athlete can earn, limits on what they can accept, restrictions on how they can generate income, and penalties for violations.

Iowa is one of 22 states without a name, image and likeness law. Wisconsin and Minnesota are other states with campuses in the University of Iowa’s Big Ten conference that do not have name, image, and likeness laws. States with campuses in the Big 12 — like the state of Iowa — that don’t have laws include Kansas and West Virginia.

In one classification state by state of favorable name, image and likeness laws, the National College Players Association gave Illinois and Oklahoma among the lowest scores and Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska and New Jersey among the higher.

Analysts said different laws affecting college athlete pay — depending on the state — could affect recruiting in some of the biggest, revenue-generating sports.

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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