College athlete pay bills clear Michigan House panel

Michigan State University | Susan J. Demas

Collegiate athletes in Michigan could be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness under new legislation that passed out of a state House panel on Thursday. 

The NCAA announced in October it would set new rules allowing athletes to be compensated by January 2021, but two House bills would move that date up in Michigan to July 2020.

Rep. Joe Tate

Former Michigan State University football player state Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) introduced House Bill 5218 and former Kalamazoo College tennis player Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo) introduced House Bill 5217 in November 2019. Both Reps testified about the need for the bills in front of the state House Oversight Committee on Thursday, saying it’s the right and fair thing to do for student athletes. 

Tate said although there was a 20-hour cap while he was at MSU on time commitments like practices and team meetings, it was a full-time job year-round for the team, which would independently workout and prepare for upcoming games.

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.) backed up Tate’s comments, saying that the full-time job of being a student athlete is only made more difficult with the responsibility of balancing being students, passing classes, spending time with family and trying to have a social life.

“The unpaid labor that has been given by so many students for so many years. I think it deserves to get repaid,” Camilleri said. “I think that this is a step forward in helping make that right for a lot of kids to make sure that they have the best opportunities.”

Bipartisan bills introduced allowing student-athletes to get paid

As it stands now, athletes can not make brand deals or profit from companies using their image whereas their peers have every right under a free market.

State Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) offered her full support, saying the bills will help specifically marginalized athletes to benefit from their hard work. She credited the bills for their bipartisan support, allowing athletes to enter a market where many are highly demanded.

Jokes about the value of the free market and beating Ohio State University were interjected between statements.

Though the bills passed through the committee and will next be reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee before going to the House floor, not all parties were in support. Daniel Hurley, who serves as CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said the bills would be a detriment to college athletes and the state should wait for a national solution from the NCAA.

“In talking with the athletic directors, they would know through their observations that there is potential harm to students,” Hurley said. “You need to take care of their educational commitments, in class, studying, tutoring and of course, the practice, etc. You don’t want that education to fall by the wayside.”

Hollier plans bill to expand on NCAA student income rules

State Rep. Matt Hall (R-Marshall) and a few others on the committee asked if the restrictions by the NCAA have deterred athletes from finishing school. Once athletes go pro, they have the option to make money outside of a scholarship. Hall said today’s team structure has fallen away from the “golden days” of college athletics in the 1980s and 90s where athletes seemed to stay three or four years. 

“It seems like every year I have to relearn the players because it’s like a whole new team,” Hall said.

More and more college athletes are leaving school early to go pro, A record number of 111 college underclassmen declared for the 2020 NFL draft, according to Sporting News.

Neither Tate nor Iden confirmed the restrictions have led to this uptick, but argued that athletes should have the same right to enterprise themselves and market their brand as their peers do.