Florida moved closer to effectively repealing its name, image and likeness (NIL) law Wednesday after identical bills breezed through committee meetings in an attempt to eliminate a perceived competitive disadvantage for state schools.
Both bills — SB 200 in the regular session and HB 7B in this week’s special session — would eliminate state regulations around college athletes earning money off their name, image and likeness. They would scrap a provision requiring deals to be “commensurate with the market value” and start allowing coaches, schools or support organizations to facilitate deals. NCAA rules banning pay-for-play arrangements and recruiting inducements would still apply.
The change is necessary, members of both chambers argued, because Florida schools have fallen behind in an area that has rapidly and fundamentally changed college sports.
Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) called the current law “outdated and overly restrictive.” Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) said the regulations were “well-meaning” but have “prevented our colleges and universities from recruiting and retaining student-athletes.”
The practical impact of Florida’s current law is debatable. Gators coach Billy Napier said last week the restrictions haven’t been an issue, while Florida State athletic director Michael Alford has said Florida “can’t compete” with other states that either have no name, image and likeness laws, or have repealed them.
Regardless, the point looks as if it will soon be moot. The Senate’s committee on education postsecondary voted unanimously (and without debate) to recommend its regular-session bill favorably Wednesday morning.
On a separate track, the special-session bill glided unanimously through the House’s education and employment committee with a favorable recommendation a few hours later. One supporter: Rep. Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican who voted against the bill in 2020 and still objects to “the whole concept” because he supports amateurism in college sports.
“That said,” Fine said, “we can’t allow Florida and Florida students to be at a disadvantage from the rest of the country. So no matter how I feel about the concept personally, the train has left the station, and I think we’re obligated to keep up with it.”
The legislative push comes in the aftermath of the Gators losing out on prized quarterback Jaden Rashada. The blue-chip recruit signed with Florida in December but asked out of his letter of intent last month after a multimillion-dollar name, image and likeness deal with a third-party collective fell through. He has since signed with Arizona State. The Rashada situation was not discussed Wednesday, and it’s unclear if any of the proposed changes would prevent a similar situation.
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Recruiting was, however, discussed generally. Rep. Ralph E. Massullo, the House committee’s chairperson, asked LaMarca whether the change “will put Florida back on an even playing field” with other states in recruiting.
“It’ll do just that,” LaMarca said. “It’s not going to give us any more of an advantage, but it’ll allow these great institutions in our state, whether they’re down in south Florida or on the Panhandle or right here in Tallahassee, to compete with the rest of the country. At that point, it’s up to them.”
Most of the lawmakers’ questions and comments centered not on talent acquisition or retention but on education. The proposal would add a second, more intensive workshop on things like financial literacy, entrepreneurship and life skills to the one schools must already offer.
It would also provide liability protection for coaches and schools if their routine decisions inadvertently affect a player’s deals. For example, Hutson said a coach and team would be protected if they suspend a player after an arrest, even if that suspension affects a player’s sponsorships.
The special-session bill is expected to go before the full House as soon as Thursday.
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