Should col­le­giate ath­letes be paid? Politi­cian thinks so

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Larry Stone Larry Stone writes for the Seat­tle Times.

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

of Texas.

“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.’ ”

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