A1 A1
Fair Pay to Play bill in Nebraska will tackle pay for college athletes

LINCOLN — At least two Nebraska state senators are planning to introduce California-style bills in January to allow college athletes to earn money by selling their name or likeness.

One, State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, said Wednesday that a recent NCAA vote on allowing collegiate athletes to earn money didn’t go far enough.

Hunt said the NCAA’s decision Monday required such earnings to be “tethered to educational expenses” and appears to limit their ability to capitalize on their fame.

“It’s nothing near what California did,” Hunt said. “I think the NCAA is getting a lot of credit for moving the needle just a little bit.”

Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne said Wednesday that he had similar plans, but is deferring to veteran Sen. Ernie Chambers to introduce a bill because of his longtime campaign to allow Nebraska football players to be paid.

2020 will be Chambers’ last session in the Nebraska Legislature, and Wayne said the 82-year-old senator “deserves to see this issue over the finish line.”

Hunt said she’s been working since March with the College Athletes Players Association and California State Sen. Nancy Skinner, who co-sponsored the bill allowing players to earn money that was recently signed into law in California. Skinner has criticized the NCAA’s decision as possibly limiting what players can earn.

Hunt said her Fair Pay to Play bill would be patterned after the California law, and would allow college athletes to contract with agents, and earn money from their name, image and likeness, without losing their athletic scholarship or amateur status.

“Why should all students earn money except athletes who perform to entertain you?” Hunt asked. “This is a first step for fairness.”

Subscribe to the Pick Six Podcast as Sam McKewon, Evan Bland and Chris Heady tackle the latest Husker headlines

The Legislature took some action on the issue this spring when it voted to amend to a 2003 law sponsored by Chambers that allows Nebraska football players, and other athletes, to be provided a “stipend.”

The law states that it would only become operative once at least four other states in the Big Ten Conference pass similar bills to pay players. This spring’s update changed the law to apply to the Big Ten Conference rather than the Big 12 Conference, of which Nebraska was a member until 2011.

On Monday, the NCAA’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to “permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” Just what “consistent with the collegiate model” means is yet to be determined.

Hunt said her bill would provide a “middle ground” between what the NCAA may be allowing, and paying players like state employees, which is what Chambers has been seeking. Her bill would not require any state taxpayer dollars because players would be earning money in the free market.

“It puts the power in the market, to see if players can hire agents and get endorsements,” the senator said.

She added that passage of her bill should enhance recruiting of athletes to colleges in Nebraska.

The Nebraska 100: Our greatest athletes

Quality of life of dementia patients, caregivers improved by trained navigators

It’s well known that caring for someone with dementia can challenge even the best caregivers and that it can lead to health problems in both caregivers and their charges.

But a recent study found that people with dementia whose caregivers are depressed go to emergency rooms almost twice as much — nearly twice a year versus roughly once annually — as those being supervised by caregivers who aren’t diagnosed with depression.

Dr. Stephen Bonasera, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of geriatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the amount of the increase in ER use surprised him. It also underscored the seriousness of the problem and the need to find ways to help.

The good news: The main finding from that study by researchers at UNMC and the University of California San Francisco is that a program that connects caregivers to a trained care navigator via telephone and Internet improved quality-of-life measures for both dementia patients and caregivers in as little as 12 months, when compared with usual care.

The study, published online last month in JAMA Internal Medicine, came out of a $10 million grant from the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, which supports the development and testing of innovative health care payment and service delivery models.

Bonasera, co-investigator for the grant, said the program was one of four nationwide looking at better ways of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.

Sign up for the Live Well Nebraska newsletter

Get the latest health headlines and inspiring stories straight to your inbox.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s, which now stands at about 5.8 million, is expected to grow over the next several decades as the number of older Americans increases. That’s expected to tax the nation’s health care system — and its health care budget.

“We think we can make real improvement in patients’ and families’ quality of life and more efficiently spend our resources if we do a better job of caring for families who are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease,” Bonasera said.

The UNMC-UCSF study followed 780 pairs of dementia patients and caregivers in urban and rural areas in California, Nebraska and Iowa, all of whom were living at home. Of those, 655 pairs were still participating after a year and 571 completed a survey at the end of 12 months.

The care team navigators not only provided education and support but also coordinated care with a team of dementia experts — an advanced practice nurse, a social worker and a pharmacist — who could be brought in as needed to address issues that required greater expertise. Teams delivered care from hubs in San Francisco and Omaha. The program did not replace the care patients received from their regular doctors.

Bonasera said calls were initiated more often by the caregivers than by navigators. If an issue arose, a caregiver could call and get the navigator’s take on it. Having the navigators available gave caregivers a neutral contact who didn’t bring judgment or family history to the table, a common problem when family members are caring for a loved one. That allowed caregivers to more fully explore questions and concerns and become better caregivers.

The navigators also got to know the families. They became familiar with what was typical for a patient and could advise caregivers when problems needed to be further checked out by a nurse or another provider.

In addition, the navigators were familiar with common problems and could supply answers quickly, saving caregivers time and stress. If Dad was starting to wander, the navigator might recommend camouflaging doorknobs. The navigators also were familiar with the resources, such as respite care, available within local communities, whether Bellevue or Broken Bow. In many cases, families weren’t aware of the resources in their communities, Bonasera said.

At the end of 12 months, caregivers who participated in the program reported improved quality of life and reduced ER use for dementia patients and decreased depression and burden themselves.

While the Medicare funding has ended, the National Institutes of Health has agreed to provide five years of additional funding to continue the study.

Bonasera said the program offers a way to provide more dementia care at less cost than it would take to hire lots of nurses and doctors. Those professionals instead would be better tasked with overseeing such large outreach efforts.

“In a situation where we’re relying on caregivers to be the backbone (for) caring for people with dementia, anything we can do to make a caregiver’s life easier is something we need to look into,” he said.

The next question, he said, will be how to take such programs from clinical trials to versions health systems can implement. Each of the four programs takes a different approach, so leaders could choose the one that best fits their particular location.

17 rare and unusual health stories out of Omaha


Tonight will be the pinnacle for pumpkins as trick-or-treaters hit the streets for Halloween. Pumpkins have been in the spotlight at Village Pointe Shopping Center as part of a pumpkin tree. Halloween is expected to be dry for trick-or-treaters. Evening temperatures are expected to be around 40, with a low of 24. Story in Midlands. Find a guide for last-minute Halloween costumes and a breakdown of seasonal snacks in GO.

Husker football's longtime 'Hot Dog Man' Stephen Potter loved to perform

LINCOLN — Gothenburg defense attorney P. Stephen Potter loved to perform in front of an audience, whether it was arguing in a courtroom, jitterbugging on a dance floor, diving off a high cliff or selling (and tossing) hot dogs for decades at Nebraska football games.

“He was a big showman,” said his niece, Hollie Wieland of Colorado Springs, Colorado. “At Christmas, he’d be threatened with contempt of court for showing up to court in his Christmas suit, with a singing Christmas hat that would be dancing around on top of his head.”

“He was definitely a larger-than-life character,” Wieland said.

Potter died Oct. 24 after battling several health issues, including some recent strokes. He was 74.

His legacy included a 36-year career as the “Hot Dog Man,” slinging sausages at Husker games while dressing in a hobo-like outfit and saddle shoes, topped by a red-striped hat. Potter’s lengthy tosses of hot dogs to customers sitting in the stands hardly ever missed their mark, and his sideline antics eventually drew the attention of CBS’s Charles Kuralt, who featured him in his ”On the Road” series.


P. Stephen Potter wearing a hot dog hat at his 60th birthday party.

The hot dog gig began when Potter was a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, his family members said. He became part of the sideline show at games.

“He wanted to stand out and sell more hot dogs than anyone else,” said ex-wife Elizabeth Barrett of Gothenburg. So he dressed in flamboyant outfits and perfected three hot dog tosses, she said, including one behind the back.

His Hot Dog Man sidelight ended in 2000, when, according to Potter, he lost his permit to hawk hot dogs after the university claimed that it hadn’t received his application. Potter, however, believed that his permit had been nixed because a year earlier, he’d brought his then-3-year-old daughter, Betsy, in a backpack to his hot dog job.

A university official objected, saying that the daughter needed a ticket, and Potter protested vigorously. The “lost” application followed.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Barrett said it was also about that time that Potter, an outstanding high school athlete, began having shoulder problems. In addition, a mechanical competitor — a pressurized-air, powered hot dog “gun” known as “Der Viener Schlinger” — had also arrived at Husker games.

State Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, a lifelong friend and “kindred spirit,” said that Potter was a dedicated defense attorney who was a “true believer” in the idea that everyone deserves a vigorous legal defense.

Potter once represented Erwin Charles Simants, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity of killing six members of a Sutherland family in 1975. Potter also filed a lawsuit to block the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming that the project was harming the endangered American burying beetle.

Williams said that while Potter, with his scraggly beard and ponytail, looked like an “ultra liberal hippie” from the ’60s, he never once drank or did drugs and was politically conservative. He also never missed a cocktail party, the senator said, because it gave him an opportunity to tell stories and “perform.”

“Life was always an adventure with Steve Potter,” said his daughter, Betsy, of Fraser, Colorado.


P. Stephen Potter on his bike in Sturgis, South Dakota. He enjoyed motorcycle trips and mountain bike rides with friends.

That included climbing Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, skiing in Colorado, motorcycle trips to Telluride and mountain bike rides with friends, including rides on land he owned outside of Gothenburg called Potter’s Pasture. He also owned property in Central America, and along the scenic Dismal River and at Jeffrey Lake in Nebraska.

In his final days, dozens of friends visited Potter at the hospital in North Platte and, later, at a nursing home in Gothenburg, swapping stories and laughs.

“He had a sense of humor up until the end,” Barrett said.

A celebration of life for Potter is scheduled for Nov. 9 at 11:30 a.m. at the Senior Center in Gothenburg.

Notable Nebraska, Iowa deaths of 2019