Utah joins national debate over paying college athletes

Posted at 5:33 PM, Sep 19, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C., — Utah State University athletic director John Hartwell delivered testimony to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions this week.

Hartwell and administrators from other universities spoke on the issue of paying student athletes.

The hearing was held after California, Colorado and Florida passed legislation paving the way for college athletes to receive compensation for their name, image or likeness.

Hartwell argued that paying student athletes would be detrimental to smaller schools like Utah State.

“Revenues from football and men’s basketball help fund scholarships in many sports, including for female student athletes, which are required by Title IX compliance,” Hartwell said.

Using Jordan Love, one of the highest-profile athletes to ever play football at Utah State as an example, Hartwell detailed how athletes receiving individual sponsorships could impact the bottom line of athletic departments.

“Corporate sponsorships may be reduced, that right now benefit every student athlete on campus, and instead be rechanneled to a select few student athletes,” Hartwell said.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is a member of the committee. He expressed concern for athletes not receiving market value for their skills. He offered an idea of capping the amount they could earn at $50,000.

“Would we satisfy the concerns that you have if we indicated we would increase the ability to compensate all members of the team?” Romney asked the university representatives.

That idea was not met favorably. Each of the school administrators, including Hartwell, emphasized the value of the higher education received by student athletes.

Hartwell suggested more sports use the model currently employed by Major League Baseball which allows high school athletes the opportunity to skip college and pursue a professional career upon graduation.

“We need to work with the NFL, NBA, WNBA and other professional leagues to further study minor league development systems as an option for those athletes not inclined for higher education,” Hartwell said.

Schools are hoping for federal legislation that covers name, image or likeness compensation for college athletes.

Administrators believe different states with varying laws on the issue will create recruiting disadvantages for some.

A representative for student athletes argued the NCAA should not be involved in the talks, instead suggesting a neutral, third-party work with lawmakers on drafting any laws on this topic.