Presidents of state universities to talk pay for athletes

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Capital News Service

LANSING — The presidents of Michigan’s public universities are meeting next Tuesday to talk about a proposal that would allow college athletes to be paid for commercial use of their name, image and likeness. 

There are proposed name, image and likeness bills at both the state and federal level.

At the meeting, campus presidents will discuss their stances on the legislation to “inform the work of the Michigan Association of State Universities going forward,” according to association policy director Bob Murphy.

“It’s a national problem that needs a national solution,” Murphy said. “It’s conceivable that you could have Mercedes dealers enticing recruits.”

Under proposed bills, athletes who are able to capitalize on the use of their name, image and likeness would be able to sign endorsement deals and marketing promotions, such as car dealership commercials and shoe deals.

Concerns, Murphy says, include how the state’s universities would mandate the regulations while recruiting across multiple states in the Midwest, since each state would need its own rules on how athletes could be paid.

There are “four different state systems with state regulations,” Murphy said.

Justin Engel, a communications specialist for Saginaw Valley State University, says his university’s position matches the association’s.

The NCAA Board of Governors ruled last October that it will allow collegiate athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness once its three divisions lay the groundwork for how athletes can do so.

Murphy also said that there could be concerns as to how a decision to allow payments to students could affect recruiting — especially at the high school athletics level.

Geoff Kimmerly, the media coordinator for the Michigan High School Athletic Association in East Lansing, said it’s too early to know the impact and that the issue hasn’t been a heavy point of discussion among association members. 

 Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, a former Michigan State offensive lineman, is a sponsor of the bill.

“Collegiate athletics have become a legitimately profitable business over the past few decades, but due to these outdated rules, the athletes themselves are left on the outside looking in,” Tate said in a press release.

Regardless of whether a university is public or private, if its athletic programs fall under the NCAA’s three divisions, it is included in the board of governor’s ruling. 

A House Fiscal Agency analysis of the legislation says, “A student’s scholarship eligibility or renewal could not be affected by his or her earning such compensation.”

Murphy said the effect on large and small public universities and athletic departments is a big part of the campus presidents’ discussion with the association.

THe University of Michigan-Dearborn and UM-Flint are the only ones of Michigan’s 15 public institutions that don’t have teams in the NCAA.

The NCAA’s 2018 study of collegiate revenue and finances found that “in total, only 29 athletics departments’ generated revenues that exceeded their expenses in 2018” and that all were members of the the NCAA’s Power-5 conferences.

UM Ann Arbor and Michigan State University belong to the Big Ten, which is one of those conferences.

The name, image and license legislation being debated in Congress is pending in a U.S. House committee.

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