House votes to allow college athletes to be paid

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illinois House voted with wide, bipartisan support on Wednesday to allow college athletes to be paid for endorsements or merchandise sales.

The plan, similar to one California enacted earlier this year, would take effect in 2023, and earned praise from Illinois head football coach Lovie Smith.

In a Monday press conference, Governor Pritzker joined House Democrat Chris Welch to offer his support for the plan. The following day, the Board of Governors at the NCAA reversed course on its longstanding policy and said it would pursue a nationwide policy to allow athletes to earn endorsement deals.

House Representative Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) called the NCAA “cowards” for caving to a “little bit of pressure” during debate on the House floor.

Representative Jeff Keicher (R-DeKalb), who represents Northern Illinois University, expressed concerns that the bill could open a door for undue influence from gambling interests over college sports, or that it could further tilt the scales of parity between major schools and conferences and smaller universities. However, Keicher supported the bill despite his reservations.

Rep. Welch and other House Democrats said their plan should still move forward to sustain pressure on the NCAA, even as it has agreed to take steps to remove the ban on college athletes being paid.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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