Bill Filed In Austin Could Help Texas Student Athletes

(Credit: Benyamin Mellish)

A bipartisan bill was filed in the Texas Legislature on Thursday that would allow Texas NCAA Student Athletes to earn compensation and benefit, if they choose, from their own names, images, and likenesses.

State Senator Judith the Zaffirini introduced Senate Bill 660 and while State Rep. Jeff Leach filed the companion House Bill for that chamber on Thursday. Should the legislation pass, it would make Texas the 7th state to make such a move in recent years.

“Texans, myself included, love college sports,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Part of that love means recognizing that it currently is not a fair deal for student-athletes. Rep. Leach, our fellow co-authors and co-sponsors, and I are delighted to offer this bipartisan solution that preserves the separation between amateur and professional competition while allowing our athletes to be compensated based on their talents.”

For years Texas NCAA student athletes have been arguing that schools and athletic programs are the only groups benefiting from them and their likeness. But SB 660 would change all of that.

The two bills would authorize NIL agreements and allow student-athletes to seek professional representation exclusively for them. The bill also would establish a set of basic guidelines for NIL deals. They would not, for example, be allowed to conflict with existing university agreements, nor could they be extended beyond a student-athlete’s NCAA eligibility.

Unlike most legislation introduced in the Texas Legislature, the bills declare that “the United States Congress must act on this matter to ensure the competitive integrity of intercollegiate athletics,” alluding to concerns that 50 separate state laws would create confusion or a “pay to play” atmosphere. Rep. Leach said the need for federal action made his and Senator Zaffirini’s legislation more important. “Congress will have the final say, but they’re never likely to act with urgency,” he said. “Texas should do what it does best: lead.”

Balancing the many competing interests involved to develop the legislation required working closely with the state’s public and private universities. “I appreciate the willing cooperation of our university partners and, most especially, their commitment to improving the lives of their student-athletes,” Senator Zaffirini said.

The bills should be referred to their respective committees in the coming weeks, and legislators may amend them in the process.

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