College athletes could earn money from endorsement deals under a bill that’s now eligible for debate in the Iowa House. Representative Ras  Smith of Waterloo says some players struggle as their universities reap the benefits from big-time college sports like football.

“While people may be able to make money off of you when you’re wearing that jersey on that field that Saturday, you can’t afford shoes for your siblings or for yourself or groceries for yourself, is an issue that we have,” Smith says.

The bill is getting bipartisan support. Keith Saunders is a lobbyist for the Board of Regents which oversees the three state universities — including Hawkeye, Cyclone and Panther sports. Saunders is urging the legislature to wait for the NCAA to create nationwide guidelines.

“New rules are coming,” Saunders says. “Congress is also working on it and I realize not everyone has the greatest of faith in congress or the NCAA, but that’s where the solution’s going to have to come from.”

Lobbyists for private colleges and universities as well as the state’s community colleges are urging Iowa lawmakers to wait for national standards. The bill, as written, says students in Iowa could earn money based on their likeness as a college athlete as long as it doesn’t conflict with another endorsement in their athletic department.

The bill cleared a Senate committee this week. It’s been approved by a subcommittee in the Iowa House, too.

(By Iowa Public Radio’s Grant Gerlock)