OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers has been trying to pay college athletes in the state for decades, even going as far wearing Cornhuskers apparel in 1983. But now, 36 years later, state Sen. Megan Hunt says now is the moment to pass this in Nebraska.
"I just don't think it's right that we're putting our players through so much, that we're asking them to do a lot to entertain us, to make money for the university, for the NCAA, but they don't get to benefit financially from any of that,” Hunt says.
It's time for the players to get paid — that's what Hunt is going to be saying to the unicameral when the next legislative session begins in January.
This comes after the NCAA announced Tuesday that they will soon "permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model," according to their statement.
So Hunt wants to open the door for players to get paid when businesses use their name, image or likeness, while also remaining on scholarship.
"A scholarship is very valuable, but I just don't think that it comes close to being fair compensation for the value they bring to the universities, to the institutions, to the money that they make for the NCAA and also the great physical cost that athletes have in doing that performance and playing the game,” Hunt says.
Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos sent KMTV a statement saying, "We are closely monitoring the latest information and discussions regarding the use of a student-athlete's name, image and likeness.”
“We appreciate that the NCAA has provided guiding principles and is taking steps to address this on a national basis," the statement says. "We will continue to engage with the Big Ten and NCAA on this important topic."
It seems like Nebraska state senators will need convincing. State Sen. Robert Clements says he hasn't made a firm conclusion, but his first impression is to keep the status quo.
"I'd rather they kept their amateur status and they're getting — most of them — getting a full scholarship to get an education and right now I don't support the idea,” Clements says.
Others like Sen. John McCollister say they need more information, but he does acknowledge there are problems with the current system.
"Some athletes that may be trying to raise a family and it's difficult for them to do that with the arrangement they have with the athletic department,” McCollister says.
Ultimately, Hunt, who represents parts of Midtown, Benson and Dundee, thinks she can convince her more conservative colleagues.
"This is essentially a free market bill so I don't see how this is something that conservatives couldn't support, it gives athletes the ability to make money off their own hard work and it lets the market decide what they're going to make,” Hunt says.
Hunt also adds that the bill wouldn't cost the state or university money, as it would be up to private business to pay the athletes.