COLUMBUS – Ohio could be the next state to allow collegiate athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness.
State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, will hold a news conference Monday afternoon to announce “major legislation involving collegiate athletics” accompanied by Ohio State University Athletic Director Gene Smith.
To date, 16 states have passed legislation that allows college students to make money through advertisements, sponsorship deals and other promotions based on their sports success and popularity. Five of those laws – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico – take effect July 1.
That presents a fairness problem for the NCAA, which regulates student athletics. Should Alabama’s quarterback be able to sign a Nike deal when Ohio State’s cannot?
Complicating matters further, each state has different rules on how students can make money from their own fame, whether universities can reject contracts and how athletes hire agents.
Worried about a patchwork of laws, the NCAA has asked Congress to pass legislation on name, image and likeness. Former Ohio State University wide receiver and current U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, was one of the legislators leading the charge. But so far nothing has passed, and proponents aren’t optimistic about legislation taking effect before July 1.
Meanwhile, the NCAA Division I Council, which oversees the highest level of college athletics, delayed a January vote on rules allowing athletes to make money. The delay came after a warning from the Department of Justice that the new rules could violate antitrust laws.
Smith co-led a working group that developed rules on how schools could implement name, image and likeness. He has advocated for regulating students’ endorsement opportunities rather than restricting them entirely.
Facing a July 1 deadline from several states and little help from Congress to date, the NCAA is expected to vote on name, image and likeness rules during its June 22-23 meeting.
Money has long been the dividing line between amateur and professional athletes. But in recent years, those athletes have advocated for being able to profit from their own work and success, especially as universities and television networks rake in cash from their endeavors. (Ohio State University’s athletic department brought in a school record of nearly $234 million between July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.)
For example, Opendorse, a digital marketing platform for athletes, estimated that former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could have earned more than $1 million a year off of his name, image and likeness. But the changes could help lesser-known athletes with savvy social media presences, too.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has advocated for compensating players. He could have made as much as $700,000 off his success as the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and leader of the national championship-winning Louisiana State University, according to one estimate.
Amid that backdrop, Antani is expected to propose a law to legalize ways for students to profit off their own fame in Ohio. Any changes would need approval from both chambers of the Ohio Legislature and Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature. It’s unlikely that all happens before other states’ laws take effect in July.
Ohio is lagging behind most other states; all but 11 have proposed legislation to help students make money from name, image and likenessMichigan already passed a law on the topic. It takes effect Dec. 31, 2022.
Dispatch reporter Joey Kaufman and USA Today Sports contributed to this article.