TAMPA, Fla. — College student-athletes help the NCAA generate billions of dollars each year.
“We put in a lot of work, work that fans don’t see. That’s us doing it,” Florida A&M University quarterback Chris Oladokun said.
Coaches sign multi-million dollar contracts and athletic programs land lucrative sponsorships, while the student-athletes are denied the fruits of their labor — until now.
There is about to be a seismic shift coming soon to college athletics, and the state of Florida is leading the way with Senate Bill 646 - Intercollegiate Athletic Compensation and Rights.
“NIL stands for name, image, and likeness,” Darren Heitner, a University of Florida law professor who helped write the bill, said. “It’s an easy way to abbreviate the type of rights college athletes should expect to enjoy at least in the state of Florida as of July 1, 2021.”
The bill will allow players to be paid for their name, image, and likeness.
“The reason athletes don’t currently enjoy these rights, which everyone else on their campus is currently and have historically enjoyed because the NCAA has stipulated that they cannot make money off their name, image, and likeness,” Heitner said. “They cannot enter into endorsement deals, they cannot host camps, sign autographs.”
When this bill goes into effect on July 1, student-athletes in Florida can profit off all of those opportunities.
“The name, image, and likeness, I’m not against it,” University of Florida football coach Dan Mullen said. “I’m for helping the athletes get what they deserve. If you talk to our players, whatever we can legally get you we can get you and help you out in any way possible.”
More lucrative individual deals could be struck with athletes with a large following on social media.
“Now with the NIL, being able to make some money off yourself, as everyone says, we’re a brand,” Oladokun said. “Now we get to create our own brand, create our own identity. I’ve always thought of myself as my own brand. That’s why I am pretty active on social media.”
Student-athletes will earn money from third parties for their name, image, and likeness. Schools, conferences, or the NCAA won’t pay them directly. But it’s still more likely that the top players from the elite programs have a better shot at making money. That’s where the nonprofit organization “Fans for Fair Play” comes in.
“98% of student-athletes never make it to the professional ranks,” James Davis, president of the co-founder of Touchdown Strategies, said. “We’re talking a very small percentage of folks that make it to the pros. Those are the folks that would profit from the name, image, and likeness. While name, image, and likeness is a step in the right direction it only will help those that are already at a high likelihood of being able to make it.”
Davis’ goal is to give college athletes the same rights other college students enjoy - the ability to use their talents to generate income. He would like congress to step in and drive a national solution instead of state-by-state laws.
“It shouldn’t be a horse race for who can do the best legislation to attract students,” Davis said. “Let the programs themselves attract the student-athletes. I think we can all preserve the game we love, we’re all passionate about it if we can get congress to come together.”
“The NCAA is now basically kicking the can and saying to the federal government ‘hey do something about it,’” Heitner said. “‘Congress do something about it.’ We have about six pieces of legislation that have been proposed on Capitol Hill. None of them have advanced far.”
Until then, Florida’s NIL law will require colleges and universities to provide financial literacy education. Florida State University launched a program called “APEX.” The plan offers two for-credit NIL classes with the help of FSU’s College of Business.
“We kept going back to two big things: one is education,” FSU Senior Associate Athletic Director Jim Curry said. “It’s really important for us to provide a solid education in this space for student-athletes. The second thing was augmenting what we were doing from a personal branding and responsible social media use perspective.”
As of today, five states — Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico — have a NIL law in place with an effective date of July 1. In the recruiting game, this could be a game-changer.
“You think (Alabama football coach) Nick Saban was going to allow the other states and schools to have a competitive advantage?” Heitner said. “Of course he wants to keep Alabama at the top of the list when it comes to recruiting.”
“Now, in the days of the transfer portal, that’s going to be intriguing to kids,” Oladokun said. “Say you’re coming from New Jersey or Wyoming and you have the opportunity to transfer somewhere, or go to Florida, and possibly make some money off your name, image and likeness. That’s a recruiting pitch for Florida schools now.”