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Florida Senate president concerned about pay for college athletes

Proposal backed by DeSantis would allow athletes to cash in on names, images

Senate President Bill Galvano
Senate President Bill Galvano (News Service of Florida)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Senate President Bill Galvano expressed concerns Tuesday about a proposal backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would allow college athletes in Florida to cash in on their names and images.

Galvano also said the proposal, announced last week by DeSantis, doesn't appear to have full Senate support.

"In terms of interacting with the senators, it's a bit of a mixed bag, (and) I have my reservations about moving college athletes into the realm of professional athletes in many regards," Galvano said during an appearance at an annual Associated Press pre-session gathering for reporters and editors.

Galvano said lawmakers might be able to do some things regarding social media to make the situation fair for college athletes.

One issue that has driven the proposal was the 2017 case of former University of Central Florida backup kicker Donald De La Haye, who was deemed ineligible to play because he monetized YouTube videos.

De La Haye's videos touched on personal topics that included kicking, a violation of an NCAA bylaw that says a college athlete "may establish his or her own business, provided the student-athlete's name, photograph, appearance or athletics reputation are not used to promote the business."

DeSantis reiterated his support Tuesday for the direction of bills filed for the 2020 legislative session that propose what he said is needed reform for college athletes. The 2020 session starts Jan. 14.

"There is no other part of college where they can use your name image and likeness … without your being able to share in that," DeSantis said. "I think there is a way forward for that, and I think we've got good bipartisan support for that."

DeSantis' position follows the lead of California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom last month signed into law a measure that, starting in 2023, would allow California college athletes to hire agents and sign endorsement deals. The students wouldn't be paid by the schools.

The NCAA has warned California that schools in the state could be blocked from intercollegiate events because the law could provide an unfair recruiting advantage.

However, Galvano's comment came as the NCAA's Board of Governors -- meeting at Emory University in Atlanta -- was slated to get a report from a working group chaired by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East commissioner Val Ackerman on whether college athletes can accept money for endorsements.

In Florida, four bills have been filed for the 2020 session, two by Republicans (HB 287 and SB 646) and two by Democrats (HB 251 and SB 582) that seek to allow college athletes to be compensated through endorsement deals that use their names, images and likenesses.

The Democratic version also would require a task force to be established to review state and federal laws and regulations by the NCAA and other organizations about compensation for student-athletes. The task force would have until Dec. 1, 2021 to present its findings.

Galvano didn't offer comment directly on either proposal.

"I expect that the proposal will need to be thoroughly vetted before any ultimate decision is made one way or another," Galvano said.