Should collegiate athletes be paid? Politician thinks so
SEATTLE — When Drew Stokesbary was in law school at Notre Dame and his fellow students would debate the idea of paying college athletes, he was squarely in the “no way” camp.
Now a state representative in Washington, Stokesbary’s thinking on the subject has evolved. In fact, it has flipped, to the point that the Republican has introduced legislation to allow student-athletes enrolled in Washington’s colleges to earn compensation.
House Bill 1084, which has been pre-filed for the upcoming Legislative session and will likely be referred to the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee, isn’t likely to pass any time soon. Stokesbary recognizes that. He’d be happy to get a hearing when the Legislature convenes Monday. His goal, he said, it to advance the conversation about amateurism, and perhaps pressure the NCAA into changing its draconian rules. “Cartel-like” is the way he describes the NCAA.
After talking to Stokesbary, the House Republican floor leader, I came away impressed that his passion for the idea is genuine. And convinced he’s on the right track. I’ve long been an advocate of compensating players in some way for the $8 billion in revenue they generate for the NCAA. His plan is thoughtprovoking.
Stokesbary’s change in perspective, he said, came after observing the ever-growing
amount of money going to those on the periphery of college athletics — the coaches, administrators and bowl officials. Meanwhile, the athletes themselves, who generate the bulk of the revenue, are forbidden from receiving compensation.
“That seemed unfair to me,” he said. “And I see more and more examples of the NCAA trying to enforce rules in ways that seem increasingly arbitrary. As college sports fans, we like the idea of a pure class of amateurs, but if we’re being honest, we have to acknowledge it doesn’t exist now, and maybe never existed.”
He cites two examples of those arbitrary rules. One is Kyler Murray, a professional athlete on one hand (receiving a $4.66 million signing bonus from the A’s, who selected him in the major-league baseball draft) and the Heisman Trophy winner in football for Oklahoma on the other. And swimmer Michael Schooling, who received a $740,000 bonus from his native Singapore for beating Michael Phelps in the 2016 Olympics, remained an amateur in the NCAA eyes and continues to swim for the University
the Pride (18-0, 4-0 Tri-County Athletic League) built a 26-7 halftime lead and beat the host Bruins (7-7, 2-2), who got 13 points from Akil Edwards. Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton 50, #17 Menlo SchoolAtherton 48: Brendan Carney had 12 points and the Gators (6-7, 3-1 West Bay Athletic League) won in overtime despite squandering a 12-point fourth-quarter lead. Menlo’s Cole Kastner (18 points, 17 rebounds) stole the ball and hit a layup in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime. The Gators were 12-for-14 at the line. Menlo (9-3, 3-1) was 10-for-18 on free-throw tries. WCAL: First place in the West Catholic Athletic League will be at stake when St. Ignatius (7-7, 3-1) hosts No. 2 Riordan (10-4, 3-1) on Saturday. In other games Saturday, No. 14 Mitty (9-5, 3-1) travels to Valley
“It defies common sense,” Stokesbary said. “Why can an athlete be paid by one governing body and not another?”
The distinguishing characteristic of Stokesbary’s proposal is that it doesn’t require a school or any other party to pay college athletes, and thus doesn’t threaten non-revenue sports (to anticipate one concern). It simply allows the athletes to be compensated by any party for their services up to the fairmarket value of those services, and to retain an agent. Both are prohibited by NCAA rules
To use Stokesbary’s example, under his bill a shoe company would be able to pay a University of Washington running back $50,000 to appear in a television commercial. And if the NCAA or Pac-12 tried to prohibit such payment, it would be a violation of the Washington State Consumer Protection Act and state antitrust laws.
Could the school itself pay athletes, if it so chose? Stokesbary is open to that. He points out that non-athletes in college have the opportunity to find paying jobs in their field, so why not athletes?
“The way the bill is written, it’s intentionally very openended and permissive,” he said.
Stokesbary believes that in such a system, premier athletes would stay in school longer, because they no longer would feel pressure to turn pro to cash in on their talent. That would enhance both the fan experience and their educational experience.
Stokesbary can hear you screaming, “But what about their scholarship? Isn’t that compensation enough?” His counter-argument is that yes, it’s indeed valuable, but if you are providing services that result in earnings that far exceed the value of that scholarship, you should be able to get a share of it.
“There are a number of people, high-profile cases, who are contributing to the university and NCAA far more than the $50,000 value of tuition,” he said. “It seems kind of unfair that at the end of the day, the people in charge get to say, ‘We’ll keep all the money, and you don’t get any.’ ”