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New bill for upcoming legislative session would allow athletes in Texas to profit off name, image, likeness

Other states like California and Michigan already have similar laws; NCAA facing key vote in January to change its rules

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, has filed House Bill 920, which would allow athletes at Texas, Texas A&M and other institutions in the state to work with an agent and sign contracts to earn money off their name, image and likeness.

Texas legislators are joining the national push to enact laws giving college athletes rights to cash in on their name, image and likeness just in case the NCAA fails to move forward.

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, has filed legislation for the session beginning Jan. 12 that would allow athletes at Texas, Texas A&M and any other institution in the state to work with an agent and sign legal contracts.

Other states around the country such as California and Michigan are farther down the road. But Texas is likely to catch up fast as Krause hopes House Bill 920 will be a bipartisan issue that attracts all kinds of support.

“We wanted to make sure getting a head start into session that we were going to do something with this,” Krause said Monday. “This is something that we need to have a serious discussion with during the session.”

The rules have been lopsided toward the adults for decades as the NCAA labeled the athletes amateurs, unable to profit themselves while the schools rake in billions. 

The University of Texas will pay football coach Tom Herman about $15 million just to leave with three years remaining on his contract. Meanwhile, senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a four-year starter, has been unable to monetize his name, image or likeness during his entire UT tenure even though Ehlinger is the program’s most recognizable star.

The language of Krause’s bill is similar to what appears in other states. Schools would be banned from keeping an athlete from entering into contracts, but rules would be in place to keep schools from giving athletes money as a recruiting inducement.

If enacted, the law would take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Krause is working with Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, and hopes to have multiple co-sponsors.

The NCAA at first was against the idea of letting athletes have such earning power. But threats of lawsuits and federal intervention forced the association to cave. New rules are expected to pass later this month that will effectively allow athletes to start profiting off their name, image and likeness. 

Athletes would probably be able to get paid for advertisements for local establishments or become social media influencers. Also under the NCAA’s guideline proposal, athletes would be allowed to accept money for autographs and personal appearances. 

The schools worry about appearances. What happens when an athlete signs a sponsorship with Coca-Cola but the school is sponsored by Pepsi? Or what happens when athletes accept appearance fees from nightclubs? 

According to Krause's proposal, it would be prohibited for an athlete to sign a contract directly opposed to a school's current corporate partner. The NCAA's proposal would push that decision to each school. 

Texas athletics has already partnered with Altius Sports to be the Longhorns’ in-house adviser to the athletes for name, image and likeness issues. Altius officials could help UT athletes determine their fair market value and advise on contract structure.

“The bill is consistent with the changes across the country, and this whole NIL change is coming, whether folks like it or not,” Altius CEO Casey Schwab said. “So it’s a good thing the legislators in the state of Texas are moving on the issue. It’s a good thing for all the students, coaches and administrators in Texas that they can have progress on this issue.”

The school also has an in-house program called "Leverage" to help athletes in four key areas: personal branding and brand management, business formation and entrepreneurship, opportunity management and financial literacy.

It’s believed that once name, image and likeness rules pass at the NCAA level, it will open a new world of recruiting possibilities for all schools.

“If you can afford to have a buyout of Tom Herman for $15 million, then the reason you have that type of money is because you have athletes on the field who can do that,” Krause said.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.