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 bill, numbered SB 2511/HB 2147, would have required all of Tennessee’s Division I institutions to pay 1% of revenue from tickets, merchandise, and broadcast licensing to a Student Athletic Trust Fund run by the state. The institutions would also provide to the state treasurer the number of student-athletes which graduated and which are expected to graduate the following year. The treasurer would then calculate the amount available to each student-athlete by dividing the size of the fund by the number of athletes which graduated. The amount for each school’s graduating student-athletes would be returned to the school who would pay the athletes.
The article mentions a $50,000 max for football, baseball, basketball, and track and field athletes (no mention of men’s basketball/track or both men’s and women’s) with a $25,000 max for other sports. However the text of the bills does not include any specific amounts.
The bills also do not distinguish between scholarship student-athletes and walk-ons, so all athletes who graduate would be paid out under the plan, not just revenue sport athletes or scholarship athletes. Given the estimate of at least $725,000 deposited into the trust fund divided by even very conservative estimates of the number of athletes who might graduate from Tennessee Division I universities each year, payments would have been expected to be in the neighborhood of a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars.
Opposition was led by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville which, correctly, said this would be a violation of NCAA rules. But the bills considered that in this section:
SECTION 5. No public institution of higher education shall be required to comply with Sections 2 through 4 of this act, if compliance with such sections would cause such institution’s athletic department to suffer an objectively measureable [sic] loss of revenue due to loss of membership in the NCAA, or any successor organization to the NCAA, or the loss of ability to compete in intercollegiate athletics for any other reason.
Rep. Parkinson though suggested the universities might be able to seek a waiver from the NCAA as the association looks at new ways to provide benefits to athletes. Rep. Parkinson also said he expects to reintroduce the bill next year.