On February 16, 2023, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 7B, which makes several amendments to Florida’s name, image, and likeness (NIL) law, adding Florida to the growing list of states loosening prior state NIL restrictions. Florida was one of the first states to enact NIL legislation, which provided the state with guidance and rules once NIL became permissible under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules on July 1, 2021; however, as time passed, Florida, and other states, determined that its NIL law imposed unnecessary restrictions on NIL activities, potentially putting schools in Florida at a competitive disadvantage and unnecessarily harming college athletes.
While falling short of repealing Florida’s NIL law in its entirety, the latest amendments remove many of the restrictions and rules surrounding NIL activities in the state of Florida. Among the most significant changes, the amendments remove:
- Restrictions prohibiting schools, teams, and coaches from participating in or facilitating NIL deals for players;
- Restrictions prohibiting schools from revoking or reducing a student athlete’s scholarship as a result of the student athlete earning NIL compensation or obtaining professional representation;
- Restrictions preventing a student athlete from entering into an NIL contract that conflicts with the terms of a school’s team contract;
- Requirement that a student athlete’s NIL compensation “be commensurate with the market value” of the authorized use of the student athlete’s NIL; and
- Requirement that the duration of a contract for representation of a student athlete for use of their NIL not extend beyond their participation in an athletic program at a school.
The most notable change is the removal of the restriction on schools and coaches participating in or facilitating NIL deals for student athletes, which now allows Florida schools and coaches to actively participate in the NIL space and aligns Florida’s NIL laws with current NCAA NIL rules. Additionally, the amendment provides liability protection for schools and coaches from damages to a student athlete’s ability to earn NIL compensation resulting from “actions routinely taken in the course of intercollegiate athletics.”
Florida’s NIL law changes came just weeks before the NCAA issued its first ruling in an NIL infractions case – coincidentally against a school located in the state. On February 24, 2023, a case involving two women’s basketball players at the University of Miami and one prominent booster, John Ruiz, reached a negotiated resolution that resulted in a three-game suspension for University of Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier, which was served at the beginning of the 2022-2023 season. Most notably, Ruiz, who violated NCAA rules by contacting the players and providing an impermissible meal before their enrollment at the university, was not disassociated from the University of Miami program.
In addition to Meier’s three-game suspension, the NCAA issued the following penalties to the University of Miami women’s basketball program:
- A one-year probation, which could result in harsher penalties if the program violates rules during the probationary period;
- A $5,000 fine plus 1% of the women’s basketball budget;
- A 7% reduction in the number of official visits during the 2022-2023 academic year;
- A reduction of nine recruiting days in 2022-2023; and
- A three-week probation on recruiting communication by staff members starting with the opening of the transfer portal on March 13.
Despite the relatively mild penalties levied by the NCAA, the University of Miami’s case is significant in that it is the first NCAA infractions ruling related to NIL. Had the University of Miami’s case been processed after the NCAA adopted a new presumption and evidentiary standard for NIL violations, which took effect January 1, 2023, the penalties might have been more severe. Under the new standard, NIL cases would, based on circumstantial evidence, be subject to a presumption that a violation has occurred. It would then be incumbent on the NCAA member institution to show that the alleged violation had not occurred. Increased NCAA investigations and NIL infractions are expected in the future as the NCAA attempts to reign in NIL.