TULSA, Okla. — For years, college athletes have not been able to accept money or endorsements while in school. It is a fundamental rule of amateurism. But Oklahoma lawmakers are working to change that.
2 Works for You is taking a 360-look at the efforts to allow student athletes to capitalize on their skills.
Former Oklahoma State University football player Tracy Moore, said, “If a player is excelling and is bringing in profit, I think he or she should be able to profit from what they're doing."
That's why Oklahoma Rep. Mickey Dollens, a former college and Olympic athlete himself, is proposing a new bill this legislative session.
While it's not a matter of universities paying students, HB 3347 would allow college athletes to get paid for the use of their name, image or likeness.
Dollens explained, “This is them using their own skills and talent to market in a free market and capitalizing on their skills and talents."
It’s an idea formulated from his Olympian days. Rep. Dollens added, “I realized Olympians don't receive any salary, but they are allowed to receive endorsements. So, I took this Olympic model and applied it to the NCAA - where you can still keep the spirit of amateurism, but you're allowing students to also profit off their own name, likeness and image."
Under the proposal, college athletes could sell an autograph, host a camp and clinic and charge a fee, monetize their YouTube accounts - just like everyone else on campus.
The representative said, “If there's a student on academic scholarship for English and they write a best-selling book, and their book starts to sell, they don't have to give up their academic scholarship."
It's a similar bill to the Fair Pay to Play Act passed in California in September of last year - side-stepping one of the NCAA's fundamental rules behind college sports.
The NCAA sent a letter to California's governor saying, “It would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions."
2 Works for You reached out to the NCAA for this story multiple times, but our messages were never returned. So, we obtained information on their website.
A month after the California bill passed, the NFL Players Association and National College Players Association announced they would explore ways to ensure college athletes get a share of revenue from the sale of their name, image and likeness - putting pressure on the NCAA, whose board of governors voted unanimously the very next day to explore playing ball.
Rep. Dollens explained, "(The NCAA) already acknowledged that they would reduce restrictions on endorsement for student athletes."
NCAA Chairman Michael Drake said in a statement, "We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes."
Dollens said the NCAA did not give a clear path forward or a timeline. That's where his bill comes in - expediting that process and giving an effective date.
It's an idea that would've helped Tracy Moore during his OSU days, saying, “I have people that are OSU fans that still order. I'll send off t-shirts to California, Stillwater. If I'm profiting now off of it, I could just imagine when I was playing and actually relevant still how many I could've sold."
Rep. Dollens said HB 3347 would especially benefit female athletes, like Makenna Burch, who don't have as many opportunities to go pro and get compensated.
Burch is a Jenks High School student who just signed to play at the University of Tulsa. She said, “(Women) don't really get paid the same amount in the work area, so I feel like it would help a lot for women, for college athletes all around the world."
So, the clock is ticking. States are taking it upon themselves to pass laws allowing college athletes to accept payments and endorsements, while the NCAA is trying to figure out how to regulate it.
But according to their website, "The action taken by California likely is unconstitutional," and the organization suggests other states, like Oklahoma, passing similar legislation would be harmful with different states having different rules.
Also, according to their website, the NCAA says members in each division are coming up with guideline recommendations, which they'll present to the Board of Governors in April. Those codes could be in place by early next year.
The NCAA is mainly concerned with making sure the new guidelines follow a student model and not a professional model.
As for an Oklahoma law, Rep. Dollens is proposing his bill during this current legislative session and expects it to pass with bi-partisan support.
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