The ‘Gurley Bill’

The NCAA has dictated that no college athlete may seek compensation for autographs, and if any players were to sell them would face suspension. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MARC VALLE | THE SIGNAL

Georgia Representative Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) is working on a bill that would penalize merchandise dealers that have been looking to establish financial relationships with student-athletes in the state of Georgia.

Fleming’s Proposal
Rep. Fleming is in the process of putting together a bill that would come down harder on the merchandise dealers in Georgia, including levying dealers a $25,000 fine. Fleming’s bill would be looking to give the dealers the same responsibility that goes along with other law-breaking offenses.

He points out how other parts of the law punishes the both ends of a crime.

“The bill that I have introduced would do something similar that we do in other areas in the law. We punish the drug user as well as the drug seller. We punish the guy that sells alcohol to minors, as well as the minor,” Fleming said.

The state representative from the Augusta, Georgia area contends that if players are punished for entering into financial relationships with outsiders, so should those who they deal with.

“There’s already a punishment for players who get in trouble, this would provide a penalty for people that have ties to college athletes and do something that can jeopardizes their scholarship,” he said.

Potential punishment
Fleming sees the punishment for the dealers being a misdemeanor which wouldn’t include much jail time if any. But the fines would be designed to attack the pockets and bank accounts of the dealers.

“We probably are looking at a misdemeanor and the other possibility is a fine large enough to take the profit out of it and take the money out of it,” Fleming said.

The bill could be on a fast track to being in place by the time the next college football season rolls around.

“It will probably be March and would be signed by the governor in July if it makes it that far,” Fleming said of the time table for the potential passing of the bill.

The business of college athletics
The issue of student-athlete relationships received increased attention after the controversy involving University of Georgia runningback Todd Gurley, who was suspended for selling merchandise with his autograph.

He lost playing time as well as, potentially, a higher spot in the NFL Draft. The merchandise dealer, Bryan Allen of northwest Georgia, encountered no consequences for selling the merchandise.

Arguments for and against paying amateur athletes are passionate on both sides. There are outside temptations from merchandise dealers that have known to promise fast cash for amateur athletes. Beliefs run that the athletes are being taken advantage of from the institutions they represent on the playing field, as well as by the NCAA.

Others contend that scholarships are all that athletes deserve and that financially compensating college athletes may run a risk of taking funds from women’s sports, which usually do not garner the attention of football and men’s basketball at most colleges and universities.

There are dozens of similar and identical situations around college athletics involving dealers and players. Running a collegiate athletics program is a big business. While something similar has not been known to have happened at Georgia State, the likelihood of outside dealers looking to enter into such relationships with Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletes like those at Georgia State is something that is being looked at under a broader microscope in light of what happened at UGA.