Lawmakers weigh compensating college athletes to play, for likeness

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Senate panel heard testimony from college reps and college sports organizations Tuesday about whether college athletes should get paid to play and whether they should be allowed to profit from their name, image and likeness.

College sports bring in billions of dollars a year, which means big bucks for organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and for schools with winning teams.

“We’ve got to make sure that the sports we love do right by those who play them,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania).

Supporters for compensating college players said many of the students are struggling financially even with tuition scholarships, while coaches and schools earn big profits.

“For too long, the $15 billion college sports industry has been a glaring example of economic and racial inequity,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington)

Opponents cautioned against the concept of paying college athletes to play.

“At worst it would force many athletic departments to completely eliminate non-revenue generating sports such as track and field,” said Karen Dennis, Director of Track and Field and Cross Country at the Ohio State University.

University athletics departments told Congress they are open to allowing student-athletes to profit from their likeness as long as there are federal guidelines to make sure all schools follow the same rules.

“We cannot function under a hodge-podge of state laws being passed that will make it difficult for a level playing field for recruitment or competition,” said Rebecca Blank, Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Some lawmakers cautioned against the rules benefiting only a small percentage of players.

“I do not see a good ending to allowing a few student-athletes to be paid by commercial interests while most of their teammates are not,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee).

States like California and New Jersey have already passed laws to allow student-athletes to profit from their likeness.