TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his support for legislation that would allow Florida college athletes to cash in on their names and images.
DeSantis told reporters he supports the direction of bills filed for the 2020 legislative session that propose what he said is needed reform for college athletes.
"There are going to be issues that need to be addressed," he said. "But I'm confident that those issues can be addressed in a way that will maintain college athletics as being a really special thing, but also provide the ability for our student-athletes to benefit just like anybody else would be able to benefit."
California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month signed into law a measure that, starting in 2023, would allow California college athletes to hire agents and sign endorsement deals. The students wouldn't be paid by the schools.
Four bills have been filed for the 2020 session, two by Republicans (HB 287 and SB 646) and two by Democrats (HB 251 and SB 582) that seek to allow college athletes to be compensated through endorsement deals that use their names, images and likenesses.
If passed, any of the proposed bills would impact the state's more than 11,000 college athletes, including those under UCF football coach Josh Heupel and basketball coach Johnny Dawkins.
"I haven't seen anything on that," Heupel said to the media Thursday.
"Between the NCAA and the players, I think it's important everyone comes up with something that's equitable," Dawkins said.
Katie Abrahamson-Henderson serves as the UCF women's basketball coach, and remembers her time as a student-athlete.
"They got to monitor it and make it fair for everybody but I'm a big believer in just getting a little bit of funds because for some people it's hard," she said. "When I was a college athlete, I really struggled. I had to have my sister send money just to do laundry or whatever it may be."
However, none of the bills address the controversial idea of colleges directing paying their athletes.
But this is an issue we've seen unfold in our backyard over the past few years.
Right here in Florida, UCF lost its kicker, Donald De La Haye, when the NCAA forced him to quit the team or give up his YouTube channel," Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca said.
"I want to be wealthy and I think my videos can take me there," De La Haye told News 6 in 2017.
At the time, his YouTube page only had 54,000 subscribers. Now two years later, he has amassed more than 2.67 million subscribers, totaling more than 254 million video views.
News 6 broke the news about the Governor's announcement to De La Haye over phone late Thursday night.
"That is insane," the YouTube sensation said. "I would not have expected things to have changed so quickly in two years, and I'm glad they are and I'd like to think we paved the way."
De La Haye believes the proposed bills could also provide an incentive to athletes to stay in school, rather than leave early to declare for a professional career.
"They don't have to wait for those one year or those three year buffers," he said. "You can come to school, make some money, and get what you deserve."
Matt Milon is a fifth-year transfer student on the UCF men's basketball team.
"Some guys when they come in college, this is the most marketable they'll ever be," he said. "Sometimes it doesn't work out in the NBA. If there's a proper way to do it, I'm all for it."
News 6 also reached out to Stetson University about the announcement, but school officials declined to comment.
The NCAA, which did not immediately comment Thursday after DeSantis' news conference, warned California that schools in the state could be blocked from intercollegiate events because the law could provide an unfair recruiting advantage.
NCAA President Mark Emmert, along with other members of the organization's board of governors, lobbied against the California proposal, noting in a Sept. 11 letter to Newsom that "member schools are already working on changing rules for all student-athletes to appropriately use their name, image and likeness in accordance with our values -- but not to pay them to play."