COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s college athletes will soon be able to profit off their brands — joining their peers from more than 20 states in a move lawmakers said is essential for recruitment and retention of players.
Gov. Henry McMaster on May 6 signed S. 685, which swept through the S.C. House by a 103-15 margin April 28 after squeaking out the Senate by a single vote earlier in the month.
"The governor's proud to have signed this bill into law to ensure that South Carolina's colleges and universities are well-positioned to immediately take advantage of opportunities provided by either the NCAA or congressional action," McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes told The Post and Courier.
The legislation won’t take effect until May 2022, a delay meant to help give the NCAA time to create a uniform policy that would govern off-field compensation for athletes.
Currently, amateur athletes can’t be compensated for personal appearances, product promotions or other projects, even as the NCAA collects almost $1 billion in annual revenue.
But states have begun writing their own laws allowing players to be paid for the off-field reputations they build, and South Carolina is surrounded by neighbors with such measures on the books, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.
“These blue chip athletes I think are going to flock to states that have these systems already in place,” the bill’s main sponsor, GOP Sen. Greg Hembree of Little River, said during an April 7 Senate floor debate.
“The colleges in South Carolina are now operating at a competitive disadvantage when they’re trying to recruit because we do not have this opportunity in place for our athletes,” he added.
The bill doesn’t let athletes get paid simply for attending a particular school. It also bars them from using an institution’s facilities, uniforms or logos in connection with such ventures. They also are prohibited from pitching alcohol, tobacco and other substances banned under NCAA guidelines.
McMaster isn’t the only Southern governor to endorse a name, image and likeness policy for college players this week. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp inked a similar statute inside the University of Georgia football stadium, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Athletic directors from Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University and the University of South Carolina told lawmakers on April 20 that adopting name, image and likeness legislation is not only a matter of fairness, but also carries lessons for student-athletes on budgeting, financial management and job skills.
USC and Clemson have both hired outside firms to advise players and staff on name, image and likeness protections and opportunities.
Clemson assistant athletic director Graham Neff said athletes new to Clemson’s campus or those being sought after have already asked about name, image and likeness opportunities.
“I think it’s maybe not on the radar yet with some student athletes that have been recruited, but we have had some conversations directly with students and their parents as it relates to this,” he said.
Congress is also working toward the same goal as the states, with legislation pending that would give college athletes a federal right to market themselves, allow licensing for group representation and create sanctions for violations by colleges, conferences or the NCAA itself.