Florida Senators unanimously advanced a measure Monday to allow college athletes to earn money from their name, image or likeness but left open the door for the NCAA to first change its student contract ban.
Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield‘s proposal (SB 646) is one of several working through the Legislature. But unlike the House companion measure (HB 7051), which is ready for a floor vote in that chamber, lawmakers punted Mayfield’s bill’s start date another year to July 2021.
That change came on an amendment by Sen. Rob Bradley, who said the state should delay implementation while the National Collegiate Athletic Association contemplates its own regulations. Taking a unilateral approach for student athletes to sign contracts could disadvantage Florida schools, he feared.
But to the NCAA, the Fleming Island Republican says California and Florida control significant swathes of the college sports media market. While the association should take action on its own, the two biggest states driving athlete pay could compel the national body to follow suit if necessary.
“There’s a lot of schools and a lot of elite athletes being produced out of those states, so it’s time to come to the table and do something meaningful and do it now,” he said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who played NCAA baseball while at Yale, backs the Legislature’s efforts to give student athletes the freedom to profit off their undergraduate career.
Currently, players are prohibited from making money from autographs or otherwise profiting from their personas. In 2017, a kicker from the University of Central Florida was declared ineligible by making money off his YouTube channel.
“He went out on his own time,” Mayfield said. “And that’s what we’re really talking about, those athletes that are going above and beyond what their responsibilities already are to go out and create an image and likeness and start a plan on, when they do graduate, what are they going to do?”
One of Mayfield’s amendments expanded athlete freedoms to prevent school booster programs and other sporting groups from creating their own regulations. Another would require schools to offer life and finance skills courses to student athletes, the details of which are expected to come in the bill’s next and final committee stop, the Senate Rules Committee.
Bipartisan opposition defeated amendments from Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy to hand student athletes a cut of ticket sale revenues and to establish a task force. Paying amateur athletes is not the intent of the bill, Mayfield said.
Bracy has filed a different athlete pay that has yet been scheduled for a hearing. House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee and Lighthouse Point Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca are spearheading the House version, which originated in the House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee.
Earlier this month, a pair of amendments added to the bill. One mandated that insurance provided to athletes must be paid by either the college or an institution of which that university is a member.
The second amendment dealt with a provision requiring those athletes to go through a financial literacy course, now included in Mayfield’s bill. That five-hour course would be mandated at the beginning of an athlete’s first and third academic years.