Raleigh, N.C. — A House committee on Tuesday voted down a proposal to establish a framework for paying football and men's basketball players at North Carolina universities.
Rep. Brian Brown, R-Pitt, said House Bill 866 would allow universities to start preparing in case a federal judge's ruling in former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA is upheld on appeal. O'Bannon sued over rules that prevented him from being paid when his likeness was used in videogames, and a judge last year agreed that the NCAA's rules violated antitrust laws.
"This is an important first step in reforming a much troubled NCAA rules environment," Brown told members of the House Education Committee on Universities, noting it would take effect only if the O'Bannon ruling becomes final.
The bill would require all University of North Carolina system campuses that earn licensing revenue from the names or images of Football Bowl Subdivision football players or Division I men's basketball players to award the players stipends to cover the full cost of attendance. Also, universities would have to set up trust funds to collect up to $5,000 a year for each eligible player from a school's licensing revenue that the player could collect upon graduation or the expiration of his eligibility.
Any private university in North Carolina that receives state money also would have to set up the stipend system and player trust funds under the measure or lose access to those funds.
Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said the state awards need-based scholarships to students at most private colleges in North Carolina, which would draw them into Brown's proposal even though the scholarships aren't related in any way to athletics.
Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, questioned why the bill covered only football and men's basketball.
"Is this equal treatment? Why not swimmers? Why not golfers?" Rayne Brown asked, adding that no women's sports are covered either.
Brian Brown said his bill was tailored to fit the O'Bannon case and that others sports would eventually be drawn in by Title IX and other regulations.
"We also have to ensure that we can protect our institutions by not bringing unwanted sanctions and penalties for them doing this for women's sports when it's not available under the rules," he said.
The bill failed on a 5-8 vote, but Brian Brown said the proposal could resurface as a legislative study.