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Senate Debates College Athlete Pay

Aaron M. Sprecher, File
AP Photo
Credit Aaron M. Sprecher, File / AP Photo
AP Photo

Florida lawmakers are working on a plan to allow college athletes to earn money for their name, image and likeness. The move comes after California created a path for college athletes to be compensated, forcing the NCAA to consider making changes. Now with a week left in session, lawmakers in the Senate are questioning whether any potential loopholes in the bill would give universities an advantage in recruiting.

Student athletes have been banned from being paid to play, either directly or indirectly. The rule by the NCAA was put in place to make sure college athletes were seen as amateurs and not professionals. But the rule is stopping students from earning money outside of sports: an issue Governor Ron DeSantis brought to light in October.

“I think that this is something the legislature should tackle in this coming session. I also say that understanding that of course there are going to be issues that need to be addressed." DeSantis said. "But, I’m confident that those issues can be addressed in a way that will maintain college athletics as being a really special thing, but also provide an ability for our student college athletes to benefit just like anybody else.”

Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) has taken on that challenge. Her bill lets college athletes enter into contracts and earn money for the use of their name, image and likeness. Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) wonders what the bill would mean for recruiters who have to follow NCAA rules. Mayfield answered.

"From a recruiting standpoint, if the car dealership, the Mercedes dealership was here their recruiting an athlete in high school would they be able to use that person’s face pay them $100,000 to put their face up in their car dealership here that would benefit FSU or do that at Florida or Miami?" Perry said. "Would they be allowed to pay an unlimited amount of money to a high school student or college student contractually?"

"You can’t use this as a recruiting tool. So they can’t enter into a contract until they have signed a contract with the school that they going to be entering into to play football," Mayfield said.

Recruiters use every edge to help their team land the next great athlete. So Perry delved into a more specific question.

"Would there be anything that would preclude them from negotiating a contract while they were in high school with a business?" Perry said.

"Yeah, the Florida High School Athletic Association would prohibit them from being able to enter into any contract. Because they would not allow any high school student to do that," Mayfield said.

But Perry pointed out a scenario many boosters and recruiters could see as a loophole.

"So, they’ve graduated high school there’s this period of time they’re not under that obligation anymore. Would anything preclude them from negotiating, not signing the contract but negotiating with any business on any contract that would use their face or image?" Perry said.

Mayfield says this bill has nothing to do with high school students.

"This is relating only to the college athletic sports," Mayfield said. "We’ve tried to tighten this up in the fact that they cannot enter into contracts prior to entering into a contract to play sports with a certain school to stop them from using that as a recruiting tool. Now, if you don’t believe this is tight enough then please get with me."

The proposed rules wouldn’t just apply to big sports like basketball and football but all collegiate sports.

Florida State's Denya Castellanos kicks the ball during the first half of an NCAA women's soccer championship game against North Carolina in Cary, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018.
Credit Ben McKeown / AP Photo
AP Photo
Florida State's Denya Castellanos kicks the ball during the first half of an NCAA women's soccer championship game against North Carolina in Cary, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018.

If passed athletes could enter into contracts with businesses to advertise the company on their social media platforms. Deyna Castellanos had 1.3 million Instagram followers while playing for Florida State University’s soccer team. Estimates show she could earn several thousand dollars to advertise through her social media.

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Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.