Connecticut lawmakers have been asked to update last year's state law that allows student-athletes to be compensated for their name and likeness in marketing deals and enable them to use their state college or university's logo, mascot or other institutional marks when they're pitching products like sports drinks and apparel.
Connecticut and South Carolina are currently the only two states that prohibit student-athletes from using such marks, potentially putting both the students and the schools at a competitive disadvantage, according to a top official in UConn's athletic department.
“None of us want to inhibit the ability of our outstanding coaches to recruit talented student-athletes to UConn,” said Neal Eskin, executive associate athletic director at UConn, in recent testimony. “In order to compete at the highest level, we must make certain that student-athletes who choose to enroll in college in Connecticut have the same opportunities as those at schools in other states.”
The Connecticut General Assembly is the latest state legislature to consider changing newly minted rules for paid student endorsements in order to help their schools land or keep top prospects. In Alabama, the governor last month signed a bill repealing the state's recent law governing college athletic compensation in order to eliminate barriers for student-athletes, while Florida lawmakers are considering changes to their law to blunt competitive disadvantages with other states.
Updates to various state laws are being made after the NCAA on July 1 cleared the way for college athletes to be compensated, creating minimal guidelines that bar pay-for-play and using endorsements as recruiting inducements.
On Thursday, with no debate, members of the Connecticut legislature's Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee unanimously advanced a bill that would end the prohibition on using school logos. It awaits further action in the state Senate. Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, the committee's co-chair, said the legislation had been requested by UConn.
To date, UConn has seen 97 student-athlete endorsement deals across 14 different varsity teams, Eskin said. Most of the arrangements, he said, have involved students pitching products like “trading cards, sports drinks, nutrition supplements, apparel and gear, and food service items.” He said bringing Connecticut's rules in line with other states’ rules will help ensure that student-athletes enjoy the “full value” of their name, image or likeness, often referred to as NIL.
“Adjusting our NIL law to allow the use of institutional marks will assist UConn in enhancing the opportunities provided to our student-athletes," he said, “while helping to maintain the championship tradition that we proudly share with the citizens of Connecticut.”