New bill would allow for college athletes to be paid

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) – Arkansas Athletics Director Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas Head Football Coach Sam Pittman, and new Arkansas State Athletics Director Tom Bowen were all on hand to speak in favor of a bill being proposed to allow athletes to be paid while in college athletics.

Shephard made the point early on his bill did not make student-athletes employees of a university and this was not a play for pay concept, “It is not providing for student-athletes to be paid for their athletic participation at the university.”

Yurachek said this bill would allow student-athletes the same rights of their name, image, and likeness that any student on campus has, “And every other student on our campus can monetize their name, image, and likeness.”

There are currently six other states that have NIL laws passed.  Florida will be the first state where those laws are active on July 1.  Sixteen other states are looking into passing a law for players, including four bordering states of Arkansas (Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Mississippi).   California currently has laws on the books but is looking to expand on them. 

Pittman put it bluntly what the recruiting disadvantage will be like for him if Arkansas does not pass this bill, “I’m screwed and I’m done at that point because it’s all about the illusion or the image of ‘I can make $1 million out of high school going to the school because I’m gonna be this big star.'”

There are protections in the bill to make sure schools and student-athletes stay in compliance with the NCAA and to make sure student-athletes are not taken advantage of by third party representation.  Shepherd said the laws on being an agent in Arkansas apply and there are already strict penalties for breaking those rules. 

In HB1761 there are the additions of agents must contact athletic departments when they contact student-athletes, players must notify the school of any deals and divulge the details of those deals to make sure there are no violations, and this law would only apply to student-athletes enrolled at a university. 

Tom Bowen agreed that this bill would protect the schools and the players, “The speaker and Matt have written a bill, that is the best I’ve seen at protecting the integrity of the state of Arkansas, it’s higher educational system, and the student athletes here.”

Yurachek, Bowen, Pittman, and Shepherd agreed that Arkansas must pass something so as not to be passed up by other states who are enacting laws while everyone waits for Congress or the NCAA to enact national laws. 

Bowen pointed out that the Session could be done by April and if nothing is passed out, Arkansas schools from Division-1 all the way down to Junior Colleges and NAIA schools will be left holding up the goalposts, “And if nothing is passed and nothing happens then Arkansas and all of the student-athletes at every higher educational institution, including the two of us here, will now be at a disadvantage.”

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