Iowa state representatives to propose bill allowing college athletes to be paid

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - It was touchdown catches like the one he grabbed as time expired to beat Michigan State in 2009 that shaped the legend of Marvin McNutt with Hawkeye fans.

Former Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt, pictured during a win against Indiana in 2010, said he supports a bill allowing college athletes to be paid. (KCRG File)

But it’s a legend the former Iowa receiver couldn’t make a single cent off of while he was in school.

“The NCAA makes a whole lot of money off of college athletes, and at this point in the day and age, they’ve got to turn some things around,” McNutt said.

That could change for future Hawkeyes and for college athletes around the state.

Two state representatives, Republican Joe Mitchell of Mt. Pleasant and Democrat Ras Smith of Waterloo, plan to introduce a new bill once the legislative session begins in January that would allow college student-athletes to be paid.

“This is saying that if somebody’s going to use your name and your face and what you do on the field as advertising or promoting a brand, that you can get paid for that,” Mitchell said.

The NCAA, the organization that governs most college athletics, has said it is against such a measure, arguing that players receive other benefits like scholarships.

“There are specific individuals that bring a ton of value to the school and a lot of revenue to the school, and they should be able to make money off their own names,” Mitchell said. “And it’s regardless of whether you’re in football or tennis or golf. They all have the same ability to do that, but really, it’s just the free market working.”

The proposal is still in the early stages, as Mitchell and Smith will look to add more co-sponsors to the bill before it moves to the subcommittee stage, but Mitchell hopes to at least get the conversation started. Until then, he believes Iowa schools will be at a disadvantage if more states pass similar laws.

“Really good players are going to look at it and say, ‘Well, I can get paid for using my own name if I go to a school in California, but if I go to Iowa, well, I can’t,’” Mitchell said.

McNutt thinks schools could even go a step further and set up a pension-type system for former players.

“Not to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get this money,’ but in a sense of, ‘Hey, you’ve done this for the school. We think this is what you should get,’” McNutt said.

McNutt, the Hawkeyes’ all-time leader in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, said he also wishes a law like this one was in place when he was at Iowa, believing he would’ve been one of the players to benefit from it.

“Yes, school is great,” McNutt said. “We love school, and we want to continue that, but I mean, when they look at how much work these athletes are putting in on a weekly basis, they’ll be like, OK, there’s some things we need to change.”

KCRG-TV9 also reached out to the Iowa Board of Regents.

Its communications director said the board doesn’t have any comment on this proposal right now and is waiting until the bill is filed to see what exactly the proposal says.