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Colorado Lawmakers Take On NCAA In The Name Of College Athletes

DENVER (CBS4) - College athletes make millions of dollars for their schools, and two state lawmakers say they should get a cut of the profits.

The NCAA will rake in about a billion dollars from March Madness, the two coaches earn about $3 million each, and the schools, cities that host the games, TV stations and businesses will make hundreds of millions.

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Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

But the players won't get a dime. NCAA rules bar any payment or sponsorship of student athletes.

State Senators Owen Hill and Jeff Bridges say that's not fair. They're taking on the NCAA. They plan to introduce a bill that allows college athletes to be paid and sponsored and prohibits the NCAA from punishing them or their schools.

State Senators Owen Hill and Jeff Bridges (credit: CBS)

"It's a cartel. It's cartel action and the second you break the story Shaun, 100 percent of lobbyists here at the Capitol will be on the NCAA payroll," Sen. Hill told CBS4's Shaun Boyd.

Maybe no one makes a better case for allowing college athletes to be paid than Jeremy Bloom.

"I had dreams of playing college football for the University of Colorado Buffaloes -- my hometown team -- since I was about 8 or 9 years old."

(credit: CBS)

But the NCAA forced him to choose between college football and Olympic skiing, saying it was against the organization's rules for him to accept endorsements to pay for skiing while playing football.

"It was frustrating because the hypocrisy was really big. They allowed Drew Henson, Ricky Williams and other guys to be professional in one sport and amateur in another."

An Olympic endorsement, the NCAA ruled, was somehow different. Bloom challenged the decision, but the NCAA, he says, is judge and jury. He lost.

(credit: CBS)

"As human beings, we deserve the right to monetize our skills." He doesn't buy the amateur sports argument, "Some of these kids are making millions and millions of dollars for their university. They literally sell their jersey in the school store and across state."

Bloom says sure, some schools will have an unfair recruiting advantage. They do now, he says, "Florida State has a recruiting advantage over the Colorado School of Mines. Why? Because their facilities are a lot better and they fill their stadium with 70,000."

The legislation by Hill and Bridges would make the NCAA rule barring payment, endorsements and agent representation an unfair trade practice.

"Our hope is that we can get a test case here, that we can break this cartel, and that we can really get these kids the compensation they deserve... scholarships are important, scholarships are valuable, but they are nothing compared to what it is these schools make off these kids," Bridges said.

And most of the kids, Hill says, won't go on to make money as a pro, "This isn't just about superstar athletes."

Jeremy Bloom (credit: CBS)

Bloom notes there was a time the Olympics only allowed amateurs too. Opening it up to paid professionals, he insists, has made the games better.

"Back then I'm sure people had a lot of the concerns that they have now for college athletics -- maybe it won't be as pure, maybe it will give advantages to one person and not the other -- but that movement has been very good for the Olympic movement so there's lots of years of data that the NCAA can look at and say well, that didn't kill Olympic sports... These kids - 18,19, 20, 21 year old kids - they're old enough to go fight in wars for our country, they're certainly old enough to be able to capitalize on their skills that they've worked incredibly hard to achieve and I believe that's their right. It's not the schools right. It's not the NCAA's right. It's their right."

It's unclear if the bill will be heard this legislative session or next. There's only four weeks left this session. CBS4 contacted University of Colorado, Colorado State University, University of Denver, The Colorado School of Mines and NCAA for this story. DU was the only one to comment, saying only that it abides by NCAA policies and procedures.

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