A bell dings inside the Nebraska State Capitol signifying a speaker has five minutes to introduce their bill. Jeremiah Sirles, a former Nebraska football player, steps in to testify along with Ramogi Huma. This follows the opponent’s testimony, given by Garrett Classy, the senior deputy athletic director for Nebraska Athletics. Senator Megan Hunt comes to the front again as the introducer and has five minutes to close the bill.
The NCAA never wanted its collegiate athletes to make an income, according to Sen. Hunt, but with the recent developments in the Fair Play to Pay Act, it may not have a choice. Big changes are coming for collegiate athletes as they will be able to make their own income by July 1, 2023, with help in Nebraska from the bill that Sen. Hunt is introducing that allows Nebraska collegiate athletes to work and make their own money.
California’s Fair Play to Pay Act—passed in October 2019—could affect Nebraska student athletes. Nebraska’s 2023 bill would allow them to work and make an income for themselves.
Huma, one of Sen. Hunt’s partners in her bid to get the bill passed, said one of the main reasons the NCAA does not want this bill to pass is because if it is approved, it will give the athletes a little sense of power.
“The NCAA does not like this because they want to be in control of the athletes at all times,” he said.
In the hunt for why the NCAA will not allow these athletes to maximize their potential, Huma has come to the conclusion that the NCAA and the respective universities would not support this rule because it could take away time that the athletes could be spending to make the universities and the NCAA money. Huma told the story of a former kicker at the University of Central Florida, Donal De La Haye, who was kicked off the UCF football team because he was recording and posting about his life as a kicker on YouTube. He was not making any money off of his account, yet he was still removed from the team.
That’s of concern for someone like Ragan Nickless, a sophomore who plays basketball at Southeast Community College. She said the toughest part about not being able to make her own income is that she has to ask her parents for money for the basic essentials from time-to-time.
“They are still very supportive because they know that my basketball scholarship is paying for college,” Nickless said, adding that if she were even allowed to get a job, she probably wouldn’t have time for one because daily activities take up about 65 to 70% of her time. She would have to get a job that would allow her to work late hours. However, she uses those hours to study for classes the following morning.
“It would be really tough to have time for a job depending on the week, because like this week I have three games and practice on the weekend, so it takes up a lot of my time,” she said.
Sen. Hunt, who graduated with an intercultural communication and German degree from Dana College in Blair, Neb., said she got to thinking about collegiate athletes getting paid.
“This is something that I sort of learned about in the past couple of years following the work of Senator Ernie Chambers in the 1970s,” she said. “He originally introduced a bill to pay college athletes like state employees to kind of correct this really bad structural problem of college athletes working so hard to entertain everybody and make money for their colleges, big universities, the NCAA, and then they don’t see a penny of that money.”
Hunt said this new bill will not only affect the top NCAA sports such as football and basketball. There are 24 NCAA sports and less than 2% of athletes end up going professional. Their college years are the most valuable years in terms of monetizing their talent and making money on top of their skills and their gifts, which is what every other non-sport student is allowed to do.
There is one main reason why a lot of students haven’t talked about this issue publicly: the NCAA and its repercussions, Hunt said, noting that some former Nebraska collegiate athletes were planning on giving a written testimony to the committee in February, including former Huskers basketball star, Isaiah Roby, and former NFL player, Danny Woodhead.
“The NCAA,” Hunt said, “does not want this to happen because they want to be in control of the players at all times and have the players making money for their organization.”