University of Central Florida football stadium. Credit: UCF athletics website.
The Florida Senate quickly approved legislation Friday to remove many state regulations on how college-level athletes can make money off of their image, name and likeness in order to align with guidelines issued by the National Collegiate Athletics Association on the matter.
The Florida Senate unanimously approved the legislation, HB-7B, as part of a special session this week. The House also unanimously approved the measure on Thursday. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk for consideration.
The issue started back in 2020, when the Florida Legislature passed a law that allowed Florida’s college athletes to receive money from their name, image, and likeness, also known as NIL deals.
Since 2020, more states have adopted NIL provisions. In addition, NCAA, the major college athletics regulatory body, has also issued rules to accommodate the changing landscape for college athletes to profit off of their own likenesses, according to staff analysis of HB-7B. Florida’s guidelines could be considered more restrictive than what the NCAA requires.
Elsewhere, states are adjusting or removing guidelines to match up with the NCAA. Alabama and South Carolina have repealed or suspended their NIL laws, according to the analysis. Other states include Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have amended their NIL laws.
The legislation also removes liability for colleges and universities if the institution has to take routine punitive action, such as suspension for off-campus activities, that results in a student running afoul of their NIL contracts.
In a Friday morning Senate rules committee meeting discussing the bill, Sen. Travis Hudson, of northeast Florida, provided the following example:
“Say, said student gets caught drinking underage, and in the normal course of business you’re supposed to suspend someone like that for a couple games, and you happen to lose your NIL deal, the institutions can be held harmless for their normal course of actions.”
Finally, the bill requires a requirement college athletes take two workshops on financial literacy and entrepreneurship so they can have a better understanding of how to handle any money an athlete comes into during their collegiate career.
During the Friday morning committee meeting before the full Senate vote, Sen. Corey Simon, a former FSU-football player, highlighted the reality that many low-income families see college athletics as a way to help ease their financial situations.
Simons is a Republican who represents more than a dozen counties in North Florida and the Panhandle.
“So many college athletes leave home, and they leave a gap in the earning potential of what that household is. Many of the college students that leave home send their Pell Grant dollars back home, so that they can help fill that void left behind from a financial standpoint.
“There is tremendous pressure, and it starts for many of our young athletes at a very young age, to be the earner. To be the hero that will save a family once they make it,” Simon told the rules committee meeting Friday.
He continued: “As many of you here know, I serve as the president of the Big Bend Pop Warner, which is our youth football, cheer and dance program, and I have been doing this for the last 12 years. And every single season, almost weekly, during the course of that season I get a parent that will approach me… they will come and ask me ‘Cory what do you think? Do you think my kid has the ability to make it? Can he play at that next level?’ Whether that be college or pro.”
“And, I understand exactly what they’re asking, because I understand the families that I serve: ‘Will they be able to get us out of this current situation that we’re living in? Will they be able to get us out of poverty? Will they be able to help?'” Simon said.
“That is tremendous pressure for an 18-year-old, a 20-year-old in college, never mind the pressure that’s being put on a 9- and 10-year-old in elementary school. So when this bill came about, it was imperative for our universities to step up and say we’re going to teach these young people how to deal with the finances that they’re going to be coming into,” he said.
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