Bohls: College athletes can now name their price; it's all fair game
- Gov. Greg Abbott's signing of bill makes Texas 19th state to pass a name, image and likeness law.
- Very few athletes are going to get rich off this new law, but all can profit from it for first time.
- Athletes will not be allowed to wear their schools' logo or uniforms on any endorsements.
It’s now the law.
College athletes own their own names. What a concept.
Unless, of course, the Supreme Court overturns it or Congress trumps it or the NCAA re-inserts itself into this mess after dragging its feet for more than a decade.
But on July 1, thanks to Senate Bill 1385 that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday, college athletes in the state across the board finally scored big despite efforts by the powers that be to keep moving the goal posts.
As of mid-summer, running back Bijan Robinson will own the rights to his name. Shooting guard Andrew Jones can do with his image as he pleases. Long jumper supreme Tara Davis can make a mint on her likeness, and trust me her likeness is about to show up, like, everywhere.
Every Longhorn athlete from pitcher Ty Madden to rower Alexandra Watson can make five bucks or a fortune by plugging Pluckers chicken wings or Covert cars or fill-in-the-blank restaurant, product or any commercial venture they please.
They can now be paid for something that the 87th Legislature agreed is rightfully theirs.
Their own brand.
And if you think college athletics will never be the same, you are right. This is just the latest snowball in an avalanche of measures that is finally recognizing that those who entertain millions of us every day by the sweat of their brow will finally get their piece of the pie. And it’s a big pie, folks. With lots of implications.
"The question was not should Texas participate and condone compensation for college athletes," said bill author Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), who met with more than dozen athletic directors as a prelude and faced skepticism before all got on board. "The question was are we willing to be at a monumental recruiting disadvantage knowing the rest of the nation has moved on with this. This should be the model bill for the country to protect and respect the student athlete going forward."
This clearly will be the new arms race for college sports. Sign with us, a coach can say in the living room, and we’ve got 10 companies lined up to assist you in marketing yourself. So much for snazzy $10,000 lockers or barber shops in locker rooms. This is the arena that colleges will try to maximize.
“It’s clear this is going to be a tidal wave and a wild, Wild West of states trying to one up one another,” one legislative source told me. “Anything happening in D.C. will remain slow and subject to hiccups.”
The playing field needs to be level, not that you will ever completely level this one. There’s just too much disparity in an athlete’s market value in Lubbock versus, say, LA. Sponsors are already champing at the bit to sign up athletes nationally, but they’d be few and far between and probably limited to headliners like DeVonta Smith or a Trevor Lawrence a year ago.
The more followers an athlete has on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, the more money they can make.
But the athletes won. And are winning. At long last.
They are winning because the NCAA refused to budge and stubbornly declined to acknowledge it was exploiting cheap labor. And by the NCAA, I really mean the Power 5 schools that have been hoarding the money forever.
But these athletes deserve so much more for the countless sacrifices they make, for the privacy they forfeit because they’re in the public limelight, for the billions they are making their institutions of higher learning coaches.
Well, learn this, Alabama and Oklahoma and Ohio State and Clemson, the old ways are dying. The athletes are flexing their muscles, using their clout not just to make a buck or two but to strive for social justice as well.
Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, one of the most outspoken Longhorn players, recently tweeted, “As student-athletes, we have to start applying more pressure on these Universities, the government and the NCAA when it comes to our name and image. For many years they have robbed us of money and opportunities.”
These college athletes are winning with laws just like this NIL legislation that Texas and 18 other states have implemented as well as the transfer portal that allows any of them to look for greener pastures even if they find out those pastures are brown once they arrive, and transfer rules that make these athletes immediately eligible when they switch schools one time.
They won in Texas on Monday when Abbott signed into law SB 1385 that allows every athlete in the state to be compensated for his or her name, image and likeness, whether it’s on a video game as Ed O’Bannon first complained about and then brought a lawsuit against the NCAA way back in 2009 or an autograph.
Not every one thinks this will be an unprecedented change.
“It’s a mountain out of a molehill,” one athletic director scoffed.
Couldn’t disagree more. But college sports won’t diminish.
When the NCAA voted in cost-of-attendance stipends or unlimited snacks for college athletes, some said it’d be a death knell for athletics. Didn’t happen. People adapt.
Athletes will not be allowed to wear their uniforms or school logos because the institutions own that intellectual property and won’t ever give that up.
In addition, the law offers some intriguing elements.
No cap limits, just fair market value, so athletes can make a buck or maybe a billion.
No endorsement of illegal firearms or sexual-oriented businesses or tobacco or casinos. I’d imagine they can live with that.
No redistribution plan as in Georgia where athletes can pool their revenue and share equally.
No special treatment for revenue sports like football and men’s basketball. Pole vaulters and rowers and tennis players can all apply.
Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), who sponsored the bill along with Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) in the House, loves the fairness this law can create for any ambitious college student.
“Other students at universities get to do that,” Krause said. “If you’re an entrepreneur in the business school, you can make money off it. Or if you come up with a scientific patent, you can be rewarded. Sports is the only place where they say you can’t profit off that. There seems to be something of a disconnect there.”
Now the athletes still have to adhere to their school’s student conduct manuals and cannot endorse sponsors that are in conflict with their own school. Schools will have the leeway to expand their own personal morality clauses.
But darn near everything else is fair game.
They can be paid for autographs, for pictures, for special appearances. They can do commercials for products. They can charge for a personalized happy birthday greeting to little Johnny or Jan. Heck, they can charge for doing summer camps.
It’s a brave, new world, and coaches are going to have a helluva time adjusting. Who’s in, who’s out. I’m sure some of them don’t even know whom to run off any more. One man’s trash is another coach’s starting quarterback. Schools will have to hire people in compliance just to monitor NIL programs. Coaches are going to worry that his best wide receiver is spending too much time endorsing himself than studying his playbook.
But the coaches will adapt. They have no other choice.
Heck, even Nick Saban’s taking in transfer portal linebackers because there is no quicker study than the Crimson Tide coach, who blasted the Big 12’s spread offense for ruining football, then incorporated it into his offense five minutes later.
Very few athletes are going to get rich out of the passage of NIL laws. We’ll likely be surprised when women become more profitable than men, but we shouldn’t be. Let’s face it. They’re more photogenic than these big, hairy guys.
Now they can’t wear a Longhorn hat or jersey, which I don’t understand even a little bit. What’s possibly wrong with Casey Thompson doing a commercial in his Longhorn jersey or Janae Jefferson doing the same. The school wins with exposure, the player wins with some cash.
Why can’t Texas third baseman Camille Corona get paid for a sales pitch for, well, Coronas? What’s wrong with Texas second baseman Lance Ford making a few coins for saying, “Come on, down? Have we got a deal for you on a brand new Ford?”
For all those fretting over division in the locker room, any such divide is already there. Do you think 85 scholarship football players always love each other? Besides, we all know quarterbacks and running backs get all the pretty coeds and lion’s share of attention from the media.
This should be a godsend for college athletes.
Now they can make a buck. It’s all above board. Well, mostly.
So the state of Texas has dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, and now athletes are ready to sign their John Hancocks. Once July hits, Longhorns and Aggies and Bears and Red Raiders are likely to be all of one voice.
As in, sign me up.