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College ADs meet to discuss possible student-athlete compensation

(Mitt Romney, center, meeting with 11 different ADs from all over Utah. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s one of the biggest topics in college sports.  Should student athletes get paid for the use of their images and likeness?

Athletic directors from all over the state met with Senator Mitt Romney at the University of Utah to try and figure out an answer.

The clock is ticking thanks to lawmakers in California, according to Romney.  He says they “lit the fuse” on this issue when they decided to make student athletes eligible for compensation in the next three years.  Therefore, he says we have until then to create some sort of policy.

“If Utah is going to be sending athletes to compete with California schools, and if the California kids are being compensated and the Utah kids aren’t, that would not necessarily make a level playing field,” he says.

However, he believes this issue is far more complicated than many people would expect.  He jokes that if you asked 300 different athletic directors on wat the solution would be, you’d probably have 300 different answers.  He says some of the people in today’s meeting are completely behind compensating students without restrictions, but, others believe that could interfere with employment laws.

Romney says, “There was not a meeting of the minds as to exactly what should happen, but, we’re gathering thoughts as to what the NCAA might be able to do and what Congress may be called upon to do.”

He, personally, support the basic concept of giving students compensation.  He believes it could help athletes from lower income homes, plus it could help people who aren’t necessarily high-profile players.

University of Utah AD Mark Harlan says schools need to be thoughtful in providing everything they can to these students, but there are certain ideas that he would like to avoid.  For instance, he doesn’t believe athletes should be considered as school employees.

He says, “I’m certainly not a believer in a system that provides employment for students in our [athletic] space.  I just don’t believe that would work.”

Smaller schools face very different problems.  Southern Utah University AD Debbie Corum says they don’t have nearly as much money as other schools, and they don’t get the TV contracts other universities do.

“If our local sponsors decide to start endorsing some of our athletes and then cut how much they give to us, it would be a huge decrease for us,” she says.

The directors left the meeting on a positive note, with Romney saying there were a lot more possible options for a solution than he had expected to hear.