Paying college athletes with grants fails on Capitol Hill

Paying college athletes with grants fails on Capitol Hill (Image 1)

A bill paying graduating college athletes with what could be a $50,000 post-graduation grant won't be considered this year by Tennessee lawmakers.

It failed late Wednesday by the narrowest of margins in the Senate Education Committee.   

“We have an opportunity to lead,” lead sponsor Rep. Antonio Parkinson told the nine member panel late Wednesday just before it voted 4-4. “We have been working on this [for] three years.”

The vote included a “pass” from Nashville Sen. Steve Dickerson, but the tie meant the bill would not advance this year in the Senate, unless five members of the committee vote to reconsider.

Rep. Parkinson accepted defeat of the issue when he told News 2, “We'll be back next year.”

The measure would affect the nine Tennessee state universities who play sports at the NCAA Division I level.

The grants provided by the bill would be funded by one-percent of the each institution's yearly gross receipts from the athletic department.

That amount is estimated to raise about $700,000 annually for graduating athletes in football, basketball, baseball, along with track and field.

While athletes in those programs could receive up to a $50,000 grant, graduating participants in other D-1 sports would receive up to $25,000 dollars.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville led opposition to the bill, which was universal from the state's higher education groups.

In a reference to the governing body of college athletics, U.T.'s Assistant Director of Government Policy Lou Hanemann told News 2, “This is a crystal clear violation of NCAA by laws.”

He added, “There cannot be a promise of pay or compensation whether the student is currently an athlete or predicated on graduation for having once participated.

The U.T. official, along with other higher education, indicated athletes could be “disqualified” from participating by the NCAA if the law were enacted.

Rep. Parkinson says the NCAA is looking at ways to compensate its student athletes beyond full scholarships.

He thinks Tennessee might be able to get a “waiver” from Tennessee to explore using the law as a model.

U.T. has also indicated it would have to unfairly share up to 75% of contributions yearly into the grant fund because of its large sports programs in football and basketball.

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