Dan Mullen on Miami name, image and likeness deal: ‘Is that legal?’

At SEC media days, the Gators coach said he still has a lot of questions about what is and isn’t allowed under state law.
Gators coach Dan Mullen spoke with reporters Monday at SEC media days in Hoover, Ala.
Gators coach Dan Mullen spoke with reporters Monday at SEC media days in Hoover, Ala. [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]
Published July 19, 2021|Updated July 19, 2021

HOOVER, Ala. — Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen, like everyone else in college athletics, is still trying to understand the logistics and legalities of players making money off their name, image and likeness.

Including what is going on elsewhere in the state.

In a small gathering with local reporters Monday at SEC media days, Mullen was asked about a mixed martial arts gym owned by a Miami athletics supporter offering $500 a month to every Hurricanes scholarship player. Mullen answered the question with a question of his own.

Related: Miami, UCF getting team-wide name, image and likeness deals

“Is that legal?” Mullen said.

Mullen said the idea sounds great … if the plan follows state law. If so, Mullen sounded optimistic that something similar could happen with the Gators.

“I think if it is, there’s obviously going to be a lot of Gators support and there (are) people to do it,” Mullen said. “My biggest deal is, how do we make sure that is legal? ... I don’t need to find myself in prison for violating rules that we’re not sure that I’m even violating.”

State law prohibits schools from paying players directly. Supporting entities can’t, either. Nor can an “officer, director, or employee” of a supporting organization. Players must also receive “market value” for things like autograph signings, meet-and-greets or sponsored social media posts.

Related: Name, image and likeness deals started at midnight for a one-employee Tampa tech company

The Gators’ name, image and likeness policy specifically prohibits boosters from paying players (or arranging payment for them). But different institutions can interpret laws differently, like whether a flat rate for every player is “market value.” Mullen describes the situation as a whole as “a big learning curve.”

“I talk to my financial team to make sure we stay within those boundaries,” Mullen said, “but let’s make sure we’re taking advantage of the different laws that are on there.”

COVID-19 update

Mullen declined to give specifics but said a “pretty high number” of players have received coronavirus vaccinations. Mullen was vaccinated this spring.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey made a push for players, fans, coaches and staff members to receive the vaccine, with only six of the league’s 14 teams having at least 80 percent of their players immunized.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

“That number needs to grow and grow rapidly,” Sankey said. “... With six weeks to go before kickoff, now is the time to seek that full vaccination.”

Games won’t be rescheduled this year if teams don’t have enough available players, Sankey said, so forfeits are a possibility.

Lightning shoutout

Mullen made national headlines last year for saying he wanted to pack the Swamp as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country. So it’s probably not a surprise that he’s ready for college football stadiums to return to full capacity this fall. He illustrated his point Monday by referencing the Lightning’s championship run.

“You look at things that are going on with the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup and the energy in the stadium, and you realize how much you missed that,” Mullen said.

Odds and ends

LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he thinks Myles Brennan and Max Johnson are both “championship quarterbacks” in the mix to earn the starting job. Johnson, the son of former Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson, led the Tigers to an upset win at UF last year, while Brennan was a blue-chip signee in 2017.

Max Johnson led the Tigers to an upset win at Florida last season.
Max Johnson led the Tigers to an upset win at Florida last season. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP (2020) ]

Former Clearwater High star Robert Margalis will be inducted into Georgia’s circle of honor. The 2003 SEC swimmer of the year won an NCAA title in the 400 individual medley. He’ll be recognized Oct. 2 during the Bulldogs’ game against Arkansas.

• • •

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.