COLLEGE ATHLETE PAY HEADING TO DESANTIS

Gov. Ron DeSantis will get a chance to let athletes at Florida colleges do something he couldn’t do while playing baseball at Yale: make money off the field from their names and images.

After dropping a push for a health-care coverage requirement, the Florida House late Friday voted 98-14 to approve a bill (SB 646) that would allow compensation for college athletes. The Senate had passed the bill earlier, meaning it is now ready to go to DeSantis for his approval or veto.

Rep. Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican who sponsored the House version of the proposal, issued a statement saying the bill is a victory for the more than 11,000 college athletes in the state.

“Together with Florida’s athletic directors, university leaders, sports industry professionals, former and current athletes, and fellow legislators we created the standard for other states to follow,” LaMarca said. “Wearing a school’s jersey shouldn’t mean choosing between using your talent and earning extra money to support your education.”

The House and Senate agreed to delay implementation of the bill until July 1, 2021 to see what the NCAA might do regarding compensation for college athletes nationwide.

The NCAA Board of Governors in October directed its three collegiate sports divisions to consider updates to bylaws and policies, with a January 2021 deadline to address compensation issues.

In January, leaders of the NCAA’s Federal and State Legislation Working Group on name, image and likeness efforts, reaffirmed they won’t support a system that makes students paid employees of schools, something Florida isn’t looking to do.

DeSantis, who has joked that he wouldn’t have made much money off the field, has been a supporter of allowing compensation for athletes since California passed a similar measure last year.

The California law will allow college athletes in that state to hire agents and sign endorsement deals starting in 2023.

Florida’s bill would establish rights for students and the schools.

Students would be allowed to get professional representation through athletic agents licensed by the state or attorneys in good standing with The Florida Bar.

Colleges and universities receiving state aid would be prohibited from putting restrictions on athletes earning outside compensation or receiving professional representation. Schools wouldn’t be able to revoke or reduce scholarships of athletes who earn off-field pay.

Colleges and universities would have to provide financial literacy and life-skills workshops for student-athletes.

The proposal also would prohibit college athletes from making personal deals that conflict with the terms of team contracts.

A sticking point between the House and Senate involved a proposal to require schools to provide health insurance for athletes. While the House ultimately dropped the proposal, LaMarca said he intends to bring back the coverage issue next year.