Junior college athletics focuses on a better future with Name, Image and Likeness law in place

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When Carla Soto played women’s basketball at Santa Fe College, the sophomore guard saw how much of time and effort the school put toward its athletes.

“Santa Fe really took care of us,” she said. “People who are retired professors would come back to support women’s basketball.”

Besides access to tutoring and other programs, the women’s basketball coach would bring in guest speakers to talk about the reality of the college environment, such as finances and the importance of budgeting. The coach offered her own version of a financial literacy classes to her players.

Carla Soto is entering
her first year at the University of Florida, and is still involved with Santa Fe athletics as a sports
commentator. (Photos courtesy of Santa Fe College)

“College is a culture shock for some people,” Soto said. “When I do get this money from FAFSA, am I paying rent, am I buying groceries or am I trying to buy shoes?”

Soto said her coach would provide this service because she felt it was important information they needed to know. It took a while for the college and the state of Florida to catch up.

Finance training is now a part of the Florida law encompassing the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) law, which went into effect in July and focuses on letting student-athletes profit off their likeness.

As a part of the Florida law encompassing NIL, a college must provide at least five hours of courses or workshops centering around financial literacy and other important life skills. This includes time management, budgeting and mental health.

At Santa Fe, the athletics administration created a five-hour Canvas course online covering these topics. Athletics Director Greg McVey said this course is an efficient way to provide resources to student-athletes for them to succeed in their personal and professional lives.

“It goes well beyond just what the NIL does, but it’s more of a life skills sort of course,” McVey said.

The NIL legislation changed the landscape of college athletics, as it allows for students to make money through sponsorships and other deals that profit off their image.

The legislation was first passed in California and caused other states to enact similar laws to remain desirable destinations for top recruits.

However, the legislation has some junior colleges worried about recruitment and the student-athlete experience.

“I hated to see college athletics go this direction,” Rob Chaney, athletics director at Tallahassee Community College, said.

Chaney was hesitant to support the new legislation because he did not want the value of an athletics scholarship be threatened or decrease in merit, but he’s learning to be open-minded and flexible about it.

Jon Erny, an associate athletics director at Santa Fe College, said athletics administrators are watching carefully to measure the NIL’s impact on amateurism in college athletics.

“I hope that college athletics can kind of continue to work out any issues that may arise,” Erny said. “And still find perhaps a balance between still having the college appeal and rewarding people for their efforts.”

Some worry about a resource gap caused by the NIL legislation.

Greg McVey has been involved with higher education and athletics for around 28 years.

At Santa Fe, McVey said he worries that some colleges have an unfair advantage when it comes to attracting talent to their school.

“It might help a lot of those other institutions secure kids that some of the other institutions can’t because they don’t have those existing relationships,” McVey said.

McVey sees NIL as the beginning of a conversation about different ways student-athletes could potently be rewarded or incentivized at the higher levels of college athletics in the future.

“I think this kind of opens the door for some other discussions with how you compensate student-athletes,” said McVey.

For Soto, her experience and education at Santa Fe helped her move to the University of Florida, where more athletes have already started profiting off the law.

“If they have a gift, let them do it,” she said

About Brenda Bogle

Brenda is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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