Joe Burrow was still a backup quarterback for Ohio State University when he started speaking out against what he viewed as a fundamental unfairness.
The Buckeyes program was worth more than $1.5 billion. The coach made north of $5 million per season, with a host of bonus incentives for postseason success.
Yet a burgeoning star of college football couldn’t make a dime off his own name and image without losing his eligibility to play?
A student who is a great musician or artist can go and play piano for money and sell their paintings without repercussions
— Joey Burrow (@JoeyB) January 10, 2017
Burrow is now a star of the National Football League with endorsement deals for brands such as Lowe’s and Bose headphones. Meanwhile, the thousands of student athletes at Ohio’s colleges and universities are still required to abide by the longstanding tradition of amateurism that prohibits any payment for their play besides educational scholarships.
That may be changing — and quickly.
State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, is the main sponsor of a bill to allow Ohio athletes to receive compensation for their likenesses.
Here’s how Senate Bill 187 would work:
- Colleges and universities could still offer athletic scholarships as normal.
- From there, students (at both public and private schools) would have the opportunity to seek out sponsorship contracts and make money off their likeness without jeopardizing their sports eligibility.
- The schools and athletic conferences themselves would not be allowed to provide students with such compensation (besides scholarships). This money would have to come from outside interests.
- There would be some limitations on the types of industries that athletes could partner with, with prohibitions on promoting marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, adult entertainment and casinos.
- Students would likewise be prohibited from entering into a contract that is in conflict with an existing sponsorship from their school. For example, a student couldn’t represent Nike if their school already has a sponsorship deal with Adidas.
- Students wouldn’t have the right to use their school’s name, trademark or logo within their advertising; just their own personal name, image and likeness.
- Students would be allowed to secure an agent to assist with securing these sponsorship deals and would be required to notify their school of any contracts before they are enacted.
NCAA considering nationwide changes
The college sports landscape has reckoned with the issue of student likeness compensation for years, even more so recently as players have developed massive loyal followings on social media.
A growing number of states have already passed laws to allow students to receive compensation. This has put pressure on other states as well as college sports administrators to act.
The initial handful of states, including Florida and Georgia, will see their laws go into effect on July 1. This patchwork of state laws has some fearing that certain schools would have a natural recruitment advantage in being able to entice students to play somewhere they can earn extra money.
Officials with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the country’s most prominent regulator of college sports, are set to meet in late June to consider new eligibility rules for all schools, Sports Illustrated reported.
In the meantime, Antani hopes to get the ball rolling on SB 187’s progress through the legislature.
The bill as written is meant to go into effect on July 1 as well. It includes an emergency clause to go into effect immediately upon being signed into law. The bill explains this is so that Ohio students would have a chance to begin working toward attaining sponsorships ahead of the 2021-2022 academic year.
Senate President Matt Huffman told lawmakers on Wednesday this speedy timeline might be difficult to achieve. Huffman said he is “not up to speed” on the legal aspects of the subject, but planned to learn more about it in the coming weeks.
“It’s a tough time to bring a new concept and have a lot of hearings and get it passed quickly,” Huffman said, noting that most of the Senate’s attention is currently focused on the state budget process.
SB 187 awaits its first committee hearing.