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College Athletes In Florida, And Across The Nation, Can Start Cashing In

Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau (15) wears the turnover chain for the first time while surrounded by his teammates at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, September 21, 2019.
AL DIAZ
/
Miami Herald
Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau (15) wears the turnover chain for the first time in his career at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, September 21, 2019.

TALLAHASSEE --- The floodgates have opened for college athletes in Florida and across the country to make money based on their names, images and likenesses, as the first contracts started to be inked Thursday.

A Florida law allowing athletes to receive off-the-field compensation took effect Thursday, after being signed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Seeing such laws go into effect in Florida and other states, the NCAA on Wednesday adopted a “uniform interim policy” allowing athletes nationwide to profit.

“With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level. The current environment --- both legal and legislative --- prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve,” NCAA president Mark Emmert wrote in a statement about the new policy.

On Thursday, Florida State University quarterback McKenzie Milton appeared at a Miller’s Ale House restaurant in Tallahassee to sign a contract with Dreamfield, a company he co-founded with University of Miami quarterback D’Eriq King.

“This is bigger than any individual. It’s a day for all athletes to be able to capitalize on something they should have been able to a long time ago,” Milton said.

Dreamfield was developed with Florida’s new law in mind. Its objective is to allow businesses to book meet-and-greet events, photo shoots and athletic camps with college athletes, with the company handling compliance issues for the athletes.

The company’s website lists Milton and King as having $2,000-an-hour appearance fees.

“Our biggest focus is on safety and compliance,” Dreamfield CEO Luis Pardillo told The News Service of Florida. “And that includes everything from NCAA compliance as well as team rules, everything that wraps into the Florida state law.”

With the ability to earn money comes the task of navigating contracts, which can be fraught with complexities that college athletes haven’t encountered, Pardillo said contracts for athlete appearances will be done through the Dreamfield website platform with a standard “template.” Payments from companies will be collected in advance, and documentation will be provided to athletes so they can file income taxes.

“Most of these college athletes don’t have the means or the ability to have legal counsel, agency representation, marketing representation or potentially even the family support to help them,” Pardillo said.

Through the company, several Florida State football players were slated to hold their meet-and-greet Thursday night at Miller’s Ale House.

The state university system Board of Governors last week adopted rules for athlete compensation. Under the regulations, athletes will be able to hire agents and will be required to disclose to the universities any contracts for compensation. The law will require universities to provide a “financial literacy and life skills workshop” for athletes.

“It’s an opportunity to educate us on how to become financially literate and paying taxes and managing money. I think it’s a great opportunity for every college athlete,” Milton told reporters Thursday.

State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran was on hand at the restaurant for the contract signing and said athletes’ previous inability to cash in on their fame was an “injustice.” He pointed to Milton’s involvement in Dreamfield as an example of athletes being able to develop business acumen while earning money.

“Those entrepreneurial skills that all of these guys will receive will pay such great dividends for them throughout their whole life,” Corcoran said.

Rep. Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican who was a sponsor of the Florida law, also touted the athletes being able to get paid for their names, images and likenesses.

“There’s no guarantee that (college athletes) will be able to play professionally. And we want to make sure that while they are famous for who they are and what they’re doing, that they can make some money doing it,” LaMarca said.