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Texas House approves NIL bill for athletes by overwhelming margin

Texas players Greg Brown, left, and Jericho Sims played important roles in the Longhorns men's basketball season. Brown, a freshman, has already declared for the NBA draft. Sims, a senior who could return next season if he wants to, also has declared for the draft but hasn't hired an agent.

The Texas House on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a Senate bill that would allow college athletes in the state to earn compensation for use of their name, image and likeness, paving the way for the legislation to reach the governor’s desk this week.

The House approved by a 117-27 vote Senate Bill 1385 authored by Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, that is designed to keep the state in step with a nationwide movement by state legislatures to allow student-athletes to profit off their own names. The Senate originally passed the bill by a 28-2 vote.

Creighton's office said Monday afternoon he plans to concur with the bill, as amended by the House to disallow college athletes from signing with an agent and become effective in July rather than September, rather than send to committee. An aide said Creighton is expected to sign off quickly and send the measure to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature "in the next few days."

The bill would take effect July 1.

However, Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who sponsored the bill in the House along with Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, who presented it on the floor, was confident about the passage of the bill.

“I think the benefit of such overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate send a strong message to the Governor that the Legislature is in favor of this,” Krause said Sunday. “My guess is he will be supportive and sign it because all colleges' athletic directors in the state have worked on this. He has several days to sign it, but my guess is he might want to sign it pretty quickly.” 

A Texas Longhorns football helmet lays on the field at Royal-Memorial Stadium for last month's Orange-White game. The state of Texas could become the 17th to pass a bill allowing athletes the use of their name, image and likeness.

Texas appears to be in lockstep with a growing number of states, starting with California and Florida two years ago, to rush along the legislation in case Congress takes no action on the issue this summer.

Texas could become the 17th state to pass a bill to allow athletes the use of their NIL.  Besides California and Florida, the others are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte told the American-Statesman last week that he was optimistic the bill could be passed quickly. “We’re close,” he said. “Very close. I think it will happen.”

Included in the bill are stipulations that athletes be paid “fair-market value” for their services and use of their name, image and likeness. Athletes would be able to be paid for everything from promotional appearances to product endorsements to autograph sessions.

Like most of the other state bills, SB 1385 would restrict colleges and universities in the state from directly providing compensation to student-athletes for their NIL and require all student-athletes to disclose all of their NIL agreements to their school. The bill adds that student-athletes will not be considered as employees under Texas State Law.

In addition, the Senate bill would prohibit student-athletes from endorsing gambling or illegal firearms and from engaging in commercial activities which contradict institutional honor codes.

“I felt pretty good about the bill because there wasn’t a whole lot of criticism or concern,” Krause said. "I felt fairly positive we’d get over two-thirds vote, and I’m glad we hit that threshold so it sends a strong message that this would be good policy for Texas.”

Krause has been working on this issue for more than a year, he said.

“For me, it seems the time is right to move on this,” he said. “We see the NCAA’s arcane rules on athletes and how they can be (compensated). They can’t even afford to go out to eat. It didn’t seem to be real fair.

"California and Florida started acting on it, and it became a competitive disadvantage for (states without such legislation) from a recruiting standpoint. We need to have this in place or we’ll see (Texas) athletes recruited to other states.”

Along with the measure, athletes will be required to take part and attend a literacy and life skills workshop of at least five hours at the beginning of the students’ first and third academic years at their schools. The workshops would include information about financial aid, debt management and budgeting.

These state laws could be rendered moot if federal legislation creates a law setting a national standard to keep the playing field level for all colleges. NCAA President Mark Emmert told the New York Times this month that he has recommended that the entire membership approve such legislation for college athletes before July 1.

The NCAA had hoped to have already addressed the ongoing issue, which began as long ago as 2009 when basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA for antitrust violations for allowing his image to appear on the cover of a video game. However, the issue was tabled at the NCAA convention in January after the U.S. Department of Justice posed antitrust questions for the NCAA.

Several conference commissioners have called for a nationwide standard to be imposed by Congress to avoid complications and unfair advantages.

Included in SB1385 was language that stated, “While efforts to pass NIL legislation in the federal government are ongoing, it is unknown whether federal NIL legislation will pass before other state laws take effect. It is imperative that the State of Texas act now to pass NIL legislation in order to ensure Texas universities are competing on an equal playing field in the competitive world of collegiate athletics.”