SC college athletes one step closer to endorsement pay after Senate passes bill

Emily Bohatch
·4 min read

The South Carolina Senate passed a bill by a very thin margin Thursday that would allow college athletes to get paid for the use of their name, image or likeness.

Senators voted 22 to 21 to pass the bill, which is part of a nationwide movement to allow student athletes who drive millions of dollars in profit to their colleges to make money on their own.

The bill sets out parameters for college athletes to enter into profitable contracts and has the support of colleges across the state and would make South Carolina the eighth state to allow such a practice. If passed, South Carolina’s law would go into place in July 2022.

Proponents of the bill argue that it is essential for South Carolina colleges such as Clemson University and the University of South Carolina to compete with other schools in recruitment. They worry that if athletes cannot get paid for the use of their image in South Carolina, they may choose to go to school in a state that does allow them to profit.

Other states are ahead of the Palmetto State in allowing athletes to get paid. For example, Florida will allow the practice starting in July and California will allow it in 2023.

“The value of this right now, and I’ll just be very plain about it, is that the colleges in South Carolina are at a competitive disadvantage when we’re trying to recruit because we do not have this opportunity for athletes,” Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

While allowing students to enter endorsement deals could help attract talented recruits to the state’s schools, colleges would not be allowed, under the bill, to line up endorsement deals as an incentive ahead of a recruit’s arrival. They would also be banned from paying students for their athletic performances.

Some lawmakers have said they worry that, while schools couldn’t directly pay students, athletic boosters may be able to take advantage of the rule by offering students money or contracts to lure them to their alma maters.

However, Hembree said that should not be an issue.

While the bill doesn’t have any penalties to prevent that, Hembree said such a move could result in student athletes losing their scholarships or deals to play sports with a school if the school or the NCAA deemed the interaction improper.

The bill has several caveats for student-athletes who would take advantage of endorsement deals. They would be barred from entering into contracts that conflict with their educational or athletic scheduling. They would also not be allowed to endorse tobacco, illegal substances, alcohol or illegal activities. A student-athlete also would be barred from using the school’s facilities, uniforms, logos or trademarks in contracts. However, the company seeking the endorsement could work with the university to get permission to use a school logo.

Some lawmakers said allowing student athletes to get paid could ruin the amateur nature of intercollegiate athletics. S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, said he believed the bill would be especially detrimental at the higher level programs.

“The beauty of amateur athletics is you’re doing it for a season, a few seasons, you’re learning lessons in life,” Campsen said. “You’re doing it for the principle and the passion, not for the money.”

Campsen said allowing athletes to seek out and get their own contracts could cause divisions on teams as the superstar players brought it more money than others.

“I think its going to dramatically change the entire dynamics,” Campsen said.

As states move to pass their own legislation, other efforts to ensure players can make money on their name, images and likenesses are moving forward on the national level.

Federal legislation has been filed this year to allow student athletes to profit off of their names, images or likenesses. The bill in Congress would make it an enshrined right that could not be limited at all by the NCAA, the governing body of college sports.

The NCAA is also exploring making its own rule changes in an effort to find a national solution.

NCAA president Mark Emmert has come out against states creating a patchwork of laws, adding that he worries students will base their school choices on where they can get paid, ESPN reported. Florida’s and other states’ laws put pressure on the NCAA to quickly change their national regulations on player pay, ESPN reported.

The NCAA is expected to pass their own route for students to profit on their names, images and likenesses by August.

Meanwhile, the NCAA has been tied up in a Supreme Court in a case concerning college pay. The organization is facing allegations that it violated federal antitrust laws by stopping college athletes from being paid.

The lower courts have ruled that the NCAA was not allowed to limit compensation and benefits for athletes. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, though, the NCAA argued that allowing students to be paid would eliminate the distinction between college and professional sports.