To understand how much things have changed since Gov. Ron DeSantis effectively repealed Florida’s name, image and likeness (NIL) law in February, consider how Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz name-dropped six state politicians at SEC media days.
Thanks to those lawmakers and a bill signed Tuesday, Missouri high school players can start making name, image and likeness money when they ink with state programs — a months-long head start for athletes and a recruiting edge for the Tigers. Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas have tried to sideline NCAA enforcement if its rules are tighter than state law.
All four states compete against Florida teams on the field and in recruiting. All four made their updates since Florida’s Legislature held a special session to try to level the playing field in this evolving space.
Which leads to the critical question: Is Florida’s name, image and likeness law still competitive?
“I think it is,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said, “and I still think it’s a work in progress.”
What Florida’s last law change did
The legislative tweak that unanimously breezed through this year’s special session removed a provision that kept state colleges and universities from causing name, image and likeness money to go to athletes. In practice, schools can work more with collectives and agents.
“It’s allowed us to not have to do it behind closed doors,” first-year USF coach Alex Golesh said in the spring. “It’s allowed us to do what we’ve had to do for two years without breaking laws.”
Within three days of the change, USF began advertising the Fowler Ave Collective at events. Tyler Van Dyke’s official Miami bio has a link to buy a T-shirt with his name on it. When EJ Gonzalez —an NFL agent and name, image and likeness director at the Grady Sports Agency — called the Gators about a sponsorship deal for one of his clients, Florida steered him through the permitting process to park a food truck near the stadium.
“That’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do a year ago because they wouldn’t have been able to help me with that,” Gonzalez said.
What Florida could do next
One potential change is to allow schools and booster groups to get even more involved, like in Texas and Arkansas. Even if Florida doesn’t go that far, Corey Staniscia — the co-founder and director of the Fowler Ave Collective — said the state could allow more communication and partnerships between schools and collectives.
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“It shouldn’t be this complete firewall between us and the institution,” Staniscia said.
Another option is to shield schools from NCAA enforcement, as Oklahoma and Texas have done. Gonzalez questioned whether that’s necessary; any dispute between a weakening NCAA and state laws will end up in court.
Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin didn’t have any concerns about Florida’s law in the spring, but he did offer a warning of sorts if other legislatures follow Missouri by providing incentives to keep in-state recruits.
“If other schools have an advantage that helps them with their in-state kids, they better be careful about the schools in Florida doing the same thing because they tend to come down here a lot for our athletes,” Stricklin said. “If we ever tilted those rules to help the schools in the state of Florida, that would be a tremendous advantage for us.”
Does it matter?
Though Florida was a pioneer in name, image and likeness — its initial law went into effect the earliest, forcing the NCAA to act — it has fallen behind legislatively. SJ Tuohy wonders if it matters.
“What are laws, and what are enforceable laws, and what’s being enforced?” asked Tuohy, the executive director of UCF’s collective, The Kingdom.
So far, little, if anything, is being enforced by anyone. Until that happens, Florida’s law appears to be competitive enough.
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