COLUMBIA — Football and basketball players at South Carolina and Clemson would be paid up to $5,000 per year under a proposal discussed Wednesday by state lawmakers.
Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, is the sole sponsor of the measure that would pay athletes at the state’s two major universities at least $2,500 per semester as long as they maintain a 2.0 GPA. The bill also calls for an additional $5,000 yearly stipend for each student that would be deposited into a trust fund until they graduate. No vote was taken on the plan.
“There is a growing chorus calling on the NCAA to pay student athletes,” Kimpson told the committee. “I want to add my voice to the chorus and use the power vested in me in the state Legislature to highlight the issue to provide a possible solution to, in my view, address the inequity that exists in this space.”
If the bill became law, it would cover men’s and women’s basketball, and football. Kimpson referred to collegiate sports as the “minor leagues,” and stressed athletes should be compensated for the time they dedicate to the sports.
The proposal comes after the NCAA’s ruling in August that granted autonomy to the Power 5 conferences — ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12. Those conferences then approved a plan that pays student-athletes “full cost of attendance,” which covers expenses not included in an athletic scholarship.
For students on full scholarships at USC and Clemson, that would be about $4,000 per year, said Ray Tanner, athletic director at the University of South Carolina.
Preston Thorne, a Gamecock defensive tackle who played between 2000 and 2004, said paying athletes would be a step in the right direction, but he’d still like to see more money for athletes whose obligations continue to increase.
“Hopefully it would make them better able to focus on being a student,” Thorne said.
Tanner added, however, that he doesn’t think the bill is necessary, since the schools are already moving in that direction.
“I’m certainly in favor with the concept of this bill, and the components where we’re on the same page,” Tanner said. “The part of the trust fund; we’re not there yet. That hasn’t been approved by the NCAA. And I’m speculating that maybe that will come sometime in the future.”
If the bill becomes law, the trust fund portion of it would place the teams in violation of NCAA rules, Tanner said.
But Kimpson countered the schools that banded together to change the rules to increase what student costs they cover can do so again to include creating a trust fund.
“In my view they have the autonomy to do it,” Kimpson said. “That’s what I’m urging them to do: change the rules.”
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