Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

Gov. Matt Bevin said in an interview Tuesday morning that college athletes should be financially compensated for generating billions of dollars in revenue that make others wealthy, urging Congress and the NCAA to consider changing current student-athlete policies.

The governor made these comments in an interview on Paducah radio station WKYX after being asked about the University of Louisville basketball scandal stemming from a FBI corruption sting of several college basketball programs last week. Two UofL coaches are alleged to have been a part of a scheme to bribe two recruits — along with an AAU coach and a top executive of Adidas — which led to interim UofL President Greg Postel placing both Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and athletics director Tom Jurich on administrative leave.

Bevin answered that he was both sad and mad that “this kind of shenanigans continues to go on,” but then launched into an unsolicited pitch for college athletes to received financial compensation.

“I think we should pay college athletes,” said Bevin. “I really do. This idea that they’re not professionals is nonsense.”

Defending his position that college athletes should be compensated, Bevin said: “They’re not there like normal students and we shouldn’t pretend that they are. Some of them, yes, go to class, but most of them are students differently because they’re there for athletics and not academics.”

As for how they should be paid, Bevin added, “I think we should maybe defer that comp — fair enough, they can defer it – but they and their families should be able to benefit from the sacrifices they make.” Bevin added that everyone else associated with college athletics is getting rich, except for the players who made all of this possible.

“The coaches are making millions of dollars a year,” said Bevin. “Shoe contracts are dictating what happens on our college campuses. Athletics directors and others associated with it that are making exorbitant fees. I don’t begrudge people making a high living. Good for them, and I mean that sincerely. But if that comes at the expense of those that are delivering the athletic prowess on the field, then maybe we should rethink the fact that this is really like the minor leagues for the professional sports associations, and they should be compensated and treated accordingly.”

Bevin added that compensating college athletes “is something that we need to think about at the U.S. level and the congressional level and the NCAA level.”

Asked if he thought that college athletes were being exploited, Bevin said: “I think that is one word that could potentially be used. I mean, there’s a lot of ways one might look at it. And there will be those who say certainly that is not our intent, and I agree. I don’t think anyone’s intending to exploit anyone.”

On Monday, Postel formally began the process of firing Pitino for cause, and Tuesday afternoon he will announce the hiring of a new athletics director to step in for Jurich while he remains on paid administrative leave. Last Friday, Postel promoted assistant coach David Padgett to take over as interim head coach of the basketball team.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]