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Whitver says lawmakers may deal with compensating college athletes if NCAA and congress don’t

DES MOINES — The top Republican in the Iowa Senate says the debate over whether college athletes should be able to hire agents and be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness is complex, but Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver says it’s an issue lawmakers may examine this summer and fall.

“I think if you ask the average person out there: ‘Should athletes be compensated for the use of their likeness?’ I think most people would say they should,” Whitver says. “The question is: Who should be doing that? Should we be writing a law? Should the NCAA be doing it? Should the federal government do it? How do you do it? When do you do it?”

Whitver says a Supreme Court ruling is expected this summer that may answer several of those questions.

“This really isn’t a legislative issue. It shouldn’t be, but because of the failure to act of the NCAA and the federal government, it’s become a legislative issue,” Whitver says. “My preference would be the Supreme Court comes out, they kind of give their ruling, the NCAA or the federal government say: ‘OK, this is what we’ve got to do,’ and they do it.”

A landmark 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively ended a ban on sports betting, prompting Iowa and many other states to legalize sports wagering. Whitver says a Supreme Court ruling on whether college athletes can have greater control — and be compensated — for the use of the names and images could do the same, prompting states like Iowa to take action if the NCAA or congress don’t.

“Hopefully they can find a solution that just evens the playing field and makes it fair for the athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness,” Whitver says.

This could affect recruiting if the system isn’t nationwide and have certain boundaries.

“Say an athlete in Florida takes a bunch of money from a booster or from some corporation or someone giving endorsement money. What’s the NCAA going to do? Is he going to eligible or ineligible? And so until we know that, I don’t that it’s affecting recruiting yet, but at some point it will,” Whitever says. “I think we also want to be careful of getting into a situation where it’s really athletes going to the highest bidder of boosters that can give the most money. Kids in high school that have never proven themselves at a college level getting the most money from boosters out there because Iowa and Iowa State specifically, we can’t compete with Texas, Ohio State, Penn State for booster money. We just can’t.”

Whitver is a former Division I college football player, a walk-on who became a starter at wide receiver for the Iowa State Cyclones about two decades ago. Whitver, by the way, was in one of the “NCAA Football” video games from Electronic Arts, but it was just his likeness. His name wasn’t used and he wasn’t paid because of NCAA rules.

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