SportsPulse: Supreme Court reporter Richard Wolf breaks down the SCOTUS ruling on sports betting in the United States, and what it could mean for the future of gambling in professional and college sports. USA TODAY Sports
OTTUMWA, Ia. — The days of wondering whether college athletes will finally get paid are numbered. I’d even bet on it.
With Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision giving states the right to legalize wagering on sports like Cy vs. Hawk, the fiercely divided "pay the athletes" debate has taken a sudden turn down the homestretch.
It’s no longer if athletes will get more than they already receive in scholarships, meals and cost of education — it’s when, and how much more will they get?
“If the state’s now going to make money off of gambling and off of college sports,” Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard said Monday, “there will be those that feel student-athletes should get a piece of that, too.”
To be clear: Sports wagering is not legal in Iowa ... yet.
The earliest it could happen in our state would be when the legislature reconvenes next January. But the movement appears to have significant interest among the state's legislators.
College administrators here know that, too. They’re even asking for a share of the money — an integrity fee — like the one being sought by professional sports leagues.
“From talking to other schools, especially Nevada-Las Vegas, there’s a big component of compliance — from an education standpoint and a responsibility standpoint — when there’s gambling that close within your state,” Pollard said at the Ottumwa stop of the Cyclone Tailgate Tour.
So where do you stand, Jamie?
“It’s too early in the process,” Pollard said about an hour after SCOTUS announced its landmark decision.
Fair. But here’s the deal:
Few things scare NCAA schools as much as point-shaving scandals. Providing athletes a legitimate income reduces the risk of athletes taking bribes in such schemes.
And let's be honest: It's high time that college athletes are at least allowed to make money off their own likeness.
Pollard's on board with that approach — though he's skeptical how much athletes would earn.
Jamie Pollard says gamble discussion should include an integrity fee for colleges. Randy Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
“The question that’s been relevant — name, likeness and image — my take is I’d be perfectly fine," he said. "If they want to monetize their name, likeness and image, let them go do it. I think there would be a big surprise of what the real value is. Players think they might be worth more than they’re worth.
“Will it really happen? Give them the ability to do it if they want — see if it works.”
That’s the thing — give athletes the option of trying to hook up with a restaurant or a sports bar or car dealership. Give them the right to make three or so out-of-season appearances. Give them a chance to make some cash signing autographs and smiling pretty — while still earning their scholarship.
“I think they’ll be surprised — can they go sell their name?" Pollard said.
“The national narrative is that there’s all these student-athletes that can take advantage of that.
“I know how hard it is to sell sponsorships. More power to them. Go out and see if the golfer can make money off their name — (or) even one of our basketball players.”
Pollard's right — allowing college athletes to make money this way would not be a windfall for all. But I imagine top college athletes at major schools would make a nice chunk of change.
Even better, it would not cost schools a dime. And really … what the heck is the harm in allowing this?
Not to mention, college sports already have major issues with shady outside influences impacting revenue sports. Instead of rigging games, though, they are rigging recruitments. And that’s worse.
The FBI, as anyone with a pulse knows, is investigating college basketball and its underworld dealings. College football, as anyone with an ounce of common sense knows, is not much better.
Matt Campbell says Iowa State athletes already are educated on perils of gambling. Randy Peterson, email@example.com
“We do a really good job from an education standpoint,” football coach Matt Campbell said following the Supreme Court decision Monday. “I think it just continues to put the onus on us to continue educating our players — and, really, our community — about what’s going on to make sure we stamp that out of your program fast.”
Men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm offered this approach in lieu of paying athletes:
“Let’s get parents to more games,” Prohm said. “Let’s get kids home for Christmas, and spring break (if ISU isn’t playing in the NCAA Tournament) and for the summer -— to where it’s not (that they’re) going to stay in Ames because (they) can’t get home.
“That’s easier than an exact payment. Let’s do some things like that. I think a lot of people would be on board with that.”
That’d work better in Ames than in Austin, Texas, where off-season money-making potential is as different as the school's athletic budgets.
“You can’t legislate a level playing field. You just can’t,” Pollard said.
What you can legislate is that athletes get paid — and it better happen ASAP. You want to reduce the dark money screwing with college sports? Let athletes make a legitimate income, then.
It’s got to happen.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.