Florida legislature bill would allow student-athletes to be paid (updated)

In 40 of 50 states, either a college basketball or college football coach is the highest paid state employee.

In 2019, Dan Mullen, the head football coach of the Florida Gators, made $6.1 million dollars – nearly 47 times the amount Gov. Ron DeSantis makes. The University of Florida’s athletics revenue as a whole was $117 million that year, which ranked ninth nationally according to Forbes. Among the top 25 most valuable college athletics programs last year, annual revenues reached $2.7 billion and profited a combined $1.5 billion.

But how much are the athletes, who are generating the wealth for these universities through their performance, receiving for their efforts? The answer would be very little to virtually nothing. A monthly stipend that is based off the area’s cost of living is given, if anything at all.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, would allow collegiate athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness beginning July 2021. The bill has already been backed by both the Senate and House Education Committees. It was read a second time in the Senate on Friday.

Brad Kaaya, who played quarterback at the University of Miami from 2014 to 2016 and is the program’s all-time leading passer, got roughly $2,000 a month in order to pay for rent, which is not enough in Coral Gables.

“Between two guys renting a two bedroom you’re looking at $1,600 to live,” Kaaya said. “So, guys will get about that, but after you pay rent it’s mostly just for getting food outside the facility or your car insurance or it’s going back home.”

Kaaya said that based on their demanding schedule, student-athletes aren’t able to benefit from internships or paid work during their college years.

The stipend certainly isn’t enough for those players coming from less fortunate circumstances that send a majority, if not all, of their stipends to their families, especially during the post-season.

“Guys really hoped that they could make bowl games,” Kaaya said. “The bowl money is usually a good sum of money or a gift card and a lot of guys would just trade those gift cards to other players for cash so that they can send it home or so that they can provide if they have a kid.”

Teammates of Kaaya would send checks to their families, some of which lived as far as Africa.

But in Florida, the legislation would shift the narrative of what it means to be a student-athlete in the Sunshine State.

If passed, athletes would be able to make money off their name, image and likeness through sponsorships outside of their universities. They would also be able to make money off jersey sales, signed memorabilia and other ways that promote the notoriety they’ve earned while competing.

Jason Setchen is a Florida-based attorney that represents student-athletes facing issues with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Setchen has represented major college athletes such as former University of Miami stars Jermaine Grace, who plays for the Cleveland Browns, and Dewan Hernandez, who plays for the Toronto Raptors.

While Setchen believes that players should be able to better themselves, he does not feel Mayfield’s bill is the way to do it.

“There should be certain things that student-athletes can do to earn a little extra money and support themselves in a better way than they’re being supported currently,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m very concerned about the idea that there’s this state-by-state thing that’s happening. California’s legislation was very well thought out. They spent a lot of time on it and they took a lot of things into account that are important.”

The California law doesn’t go into effect until 2023, which Setchen said gives the NCAA an opportunity to adjust to the new law.

“This should be handled at the congressional level and it should be one law that effects. It should be studied and handled with one law that impacts all 50 states.”

Another major cause for concern is Title IX, which is a federal law that prohibits discrimination between genders in collegiate athletics. Setchen foresees this being an issue if collegiate athletics in Florida open up the floodgates too soon.

“If you let the market dictate what people are getting paid and they’re just making money off their name, image and likeness, I feel as if women would be at a real disadvantage,” Setchen said.

“You have all the men sports on TV, and they get exposure in primetime and that helps boost these guys, and then there are opportunities to market. But women wouldn’t get that same experience because they’re just not getting that type of exposure in their sports and that’s unfair. That’s a violation of Title IX and that’s a problem.”

The state Senate is scheduled to have a third reading of the bill on Monday.

Update: The Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure March 9. It now awaits a House vote.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Jason Setchen’s name.


Born and raised in Miami, Florida. He is currently a Miami Hurricanes football and recruiting writer for 247Sports.