Florida State offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons is rightly proud of what he has done with his name, image and likeness since Florida law went into effect on July, 1st.
His “Take Timothy to Tally” campaign raised $90,000 to lift Timothy Donovan, a fan born with a rare and complicated condition that seriously affects multiple parts of his body. His nonprofit, Big Man Big Heart, helped the family of a 14-year-old girl with leukemia. He took 30 Tallahassee kids to Walmart to buy Christmas gifts and planned a church, family, soccer and fishing event for dozens more on April 30.
In less than a year, the Clearwater Central Catholic alumni charity has raised over $200,000.
“Imagine what I could have done if the State of Florida had been allowed to have direct involvement with my name, image and likeness,” Gibbons said.
But FSU cannot. This is against state law.
Although players can earn or raise money through their name, image, and likeness through things like endorsements, camps, and social media posts, schools in Florida have strict restrictions on this. what they can do to help. That’s because the law Governor Ron DeSantis signed 20 months ago prohibits schools, athletic departments or recall organizations from having money “directed to” players or rookies.
“The original idea was to have a firewall between the university and the athlete,” said Corey Staniscia, who helped draft the legislation as an aide to Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) .
This firewall seemed necessary as the state led the charge in one of the most transformative issues in college sports history. The university’s lawyers were unwilling to give the athletes legal advice on the agreements. Politicians and schools worried that boosters were getting too involved in a newly legal market without guardrails.
Because the Florida law had the earliest effective date of any state (July 1, 2021), it caused the NCAA to end its ban on NIL compensation. But being at the forefront put Florida behind. Some states have less restrictive laws. Others have none at all, meaning they just follow the much looser NCAA policy.
“We can’t compete with what our competitors in other states can do at this point,” Seminoles athletic director Michael Alford told the FSU board this week.
BYU, for example, brokered a sponsorship deal with a protein bar company that would give each passing football player enough money to pay for college tuition. Cougars associate athletic director Gary Veron told ESPN it was “the biggest professional day of my life.”
It couldn’t happen here.
The Florida law also created ambiguity. A company looking to recruit more than 100 athletes reached out to Staniscia, now director of external affairs for the Orlando-based NIL market, Dreamfield. Staniscia started talking with athletic directors to see if their schools would approve of this client. A compliance department considered suspending the agreement. Was Staniscia’s conversation with the DA an example of a school sending money to its players – a violation of state law?
Although schools bring in outsiders to educate players on NIL, they are limited in what they can discuss directly.
“Right now the name, image and likeness inside our facilities is being treated like voodoo,” Gibbons said. “Everyone knows it’s happening. Nobody talks about it. »
That could change under a bill LaMarca filed in December. HB 939 would allow schools, coaches and recall organizations to “cause compensation to be directed” to a current player without paying them directly. It did not pass its first reading on January 11.
The proposed changes would remove a competitive disadvantage that threatens to hurt public schools on the recruiting track — if it hasn’t already. Athletes could work directly with coaches and administrators they know and trust. Fans looking to book a player appearance could go through the athletic department instead of a third party.
But eliminating the NIL firewall between athletes and their school would have other consequences. There is a slippery slope between Seminoles or Gators brokerage deals for players and teams paying players directly. At least one major figure thinks that day is likely to come, regardless.
“We’re headed to the player getting a piece of the pie,” Gators coach Billy Napier said. “And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.”
In the meantime, Florida needs to figure out what it wants to do about NIL and whether it wants — or can afford — to stay behind.
Gibbons is pushing for the proposed changes because he sees what it could do for his nonprofit. What if FSU could have provided him with more support and education as he started his own charity? How much more could he have raised if the FSU had been able to connect him directly with alumni or simply promote his work on social media?
“I believe,” Gibbons said, “the impact would be incredible.”
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