First and goal: College jocks could soon get their payday

Legislation moves as the NCAA discusses evolving its own requirements.

Legislation permitting Florida college athletes to earn money from their likeness moved another step forward in the House Wednesday.

The House Judiciary Committee passed legislation (HB 7051) that would let student athletes earn compensation for their name, image and likeness. The legislation now heads to the House floor.

“It’s time to get out of the way of our students athletes,” said Rep. Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican. “Were trying to eliminate legal conflicts and expose students to the economic free market.”

The bill also puts in place new rules regarding insurance for students and letting college agents approach those who may go professional before the athletes graduate.

The move could put Florida, a state rich with storied college sports programs, at the forefront of a national debate about paying college athletes.

The Judiciary Committee met in Tallahassee a day after NCAA officials met with a U.S. Senate working group.

LaMarca noted NCAA officials acknowledged at that meeting in Washington, D.C., it was time to consider allowing athletes to earn some income from sale of their likenesses.

But lawmakers did express some concern about pulling too far ahead on a still evolving national discussion.

Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican, voiced intense criticism of the NCAA and its restrictions on college athletes. But he also said he does not want Florida’s public universities to become infested with agents and handlers taking advantage of players who could end up in binding, exploitative contracts.

He said Florida needed to have a regulatory framework in place that held all parties responsibility and protected the best interest of athletes. And that’s been seen in club sports working outside any public oversight.

“I would suggest turning college athletics into AAU basketball is probably the worst thing we could put on these kids,” he said.

But Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat, said Florida has seen too many stories of college athletes dependent on scholarships but unable to otherwise provide for themselves and their families.

“If a college coach make $5 to 6 million and a student athlete can’t make money to eat in the summertime, something does not make sense,” he said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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