JEFFERSON CITY — A push to allow college athletes to profit from their on-field exploits in Missouri may get an assist this spring from a potentially potent ally — anger.
The foot-stomping, finger-pointing indignation over sanctions imposed on the University of Missouri last month by the NCAA is already being used to pump up support for the passage of a plan that would allow for student athletes to be paid.
In telegraphing that message Monday, Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City, linked the two issues, saying allowing athletes to be compensated “is long overdue.”
“It is abundantly clear the NCAA will not act in the best interest of student athletes until state governments force their hand. Nothing is more evident of that than the wanton recklessness the NCAA recently displayed in its inexcusable and indefensible sanctions against the University of Missouri. I hope legislation in our state will be the much-needed catalyst for wholesale change in college athletics,” Rogers said in a statement.
In the Missouri Legislature, it often takes years of debate and negotiation for significant changes to find their way into the law books. Sometimes, however, political rancor can put things on a faster track.
With state lawmakers set to return to action in January, at least three proposals have been introduced that mirror a new California law allowing for athletes to sign paid endorsement deals and hire agents while preserving their scholarships and NCAA eligibility.
The proposals were rolled out just days after the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee denied the University of Missouri’s appeal of sanctions levied against the Tigers' football, baseball and softball programs, including a one-year postseason ban for all three teams.
The allegations leading to the sanctions first surfaced in November 2016, when a former tutor came forward to Mizzou compliance officials and admitted to doing coursework for MU athletes.
Missouri politicians expressed outrage at the NCAA’s decision to uphold the penalties, with Gov. Mike Parson saying he strongly disagreed with the ruling.
Sen. Caleb Rowden, a top ranking Republican whose district includes Mizzou’s Columbia campus, raged against the NCAA on Twitter.
“The NCAA is a fraud — a wolf in sheep’s clothing that values self-interest over the well being of their member institutions and students,” Rowden wrote.
On Monday, Kansas City-based lobbying firm Catalyst issued a statement on behalf of the National College Players Association, hailing the legislation introduced by Rogers and Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O'Fallon, that would allow college athletes to get paid.
In that release, Schroer also lobbed shots at the NCAA over its prohibition on compensating athletes.
“This ban violates every capitalistic principle of free markets which has made this country exactly what it is today,” Schroer said. “While student athletes are barred from making money off of their image and likeness, the NCAA continues to cash in as they siphon money away from the very student athletes the organization should be protecting.”
The NCAA has opposed such measures, saying they contradict the mission of college sports. But, in a nod to the national focus on possible changes, the organization announced in late October that it will consider a new model that includes money for players.
NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma urged Missouri lawmakers to move quickly in taking action on the state-level legislation, accusing the NCAA of dragging its feet.
“The NCPA is encouraging lawmakers to ignore the NCAA’s stall tactics and take action against the NCAA’s unfair ‘Collegiate Model,’” Huma said.
The legislation is House Bill 1564, House Bill 1792 and House Bill 1532.