AUGUSTA, Ga. — College athletes in Georgia could start making money next season. Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to sign HB 617 Thursday, allowing student-athletes to be paid if their name, image or likeness is used.
“It’s big business,” Clint Bryant, Augusta University’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, says. “College athletics, at that level, is huge, huge business. There’s a lot of money involved.”
According to the bill, college athletes will not be punished or have their scholarships revoked if they are compensated. They will be mandated to inform their school if they sign a contract. They will also be required to participate in a workshop to learn about budgeting and debt.
The debate over whether student-athletes should be paid beyond scholarships has been gaining traction since California paved the way in 2019 with a similar law. The NCAA is already considering changes and has asked Congress for help to create a federal name image and likeness law.
There’s also a Supreme Court case lingering over whether the association’s rules about athlete compensation violates antitrust laws.
College athletes will not have access to the money they make right away. Their earnings must be deposited in an escrow bank account, which will be set up by colleges and universities. Students will not be allowed to access their earnings until at least one year after they graduate or “withdraw” from their school.
“People argue, ‘Shouldn’t a scholarship be enough?’ 30 or 40 years ago, that was probably comparable, but not in this day and time. Athletes are leaving early to play professionally because they can not afford not to take advantage of their marketability.”
The new law, which will go into effect July 1, is expected to make a big impact at major colleges, such as the University of Georgia. For smaller schools, like Augusta University, there are still a lot of questions.
“We, unlike the Power Five schools, do not have big-time TV contracts or revenue streams. It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with smaller colleges and universities.”
Several states have passed similar laws while others, including South Carolina, are considering their own legislation. Bryant says these different laws could affect recruiting with athletes potentially deciding to attend a university in one state because of its particular law. The NCAA is expected to release its own set of guidelines this summer to avoid this issue.