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Proposed Florida NIL deal sparks debate among coaches and players

Rowan Quartararo (left), 17, warms up his throws and catches with his teammate at North Marion High School baseball practice. (Kathryn Ross/WUFT News)

Florida is considering a new law that could allow high school athletes to make money from their sport, polarizing coaches, parents and players.

Long debated in the collegiate level, many wonder if the law would would give students more opportunity or ruin high school sports.

Florida could follow 33 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, to allow high school athletes to make name, image and likeness (or NIL) money through sponsorship deals.

Eric Marshall is the current head coach of the Santa Fe High School women’s volleyball team and helped lead them to become state champions in 2022.

“Teams that are able to do [NIL] for athletes, those are gonna be the dominant teams,” Marshall said. “Those are the teams that are gonna get the exposure. Those are gonna be the teams that are gonna win the state championships.”

Ian Scott was named the head coach of the Gainesville High School football team in 2023. Scott says that if NIL is handled the right way, it could be a benefit.

“I believe there is an opportunity for our students to have a better understanding of money management if these things are handled appropriately,” Scott said.

High school is a critical development stage in young athletes' lives, both athletically and maturity-wise. Rowan Quartararo, 17, is a junior pitcher and shortstop for the North Marion High School baseball team. While he sees benefits to the NIL law, he also sees the young age of these athletes as being a problem.

“The downside is that high school athletes are minors and not all student athletes are mature and could use the money or the popularity in a negative manner,” Quartararo said.

Scott, like many coaches, believes that this will be a school-by-school and sport-by-sport scenario. Rebecca Schakow is the head coach of the P.K. Yonge high school girl’s soccer team.

“It would have a positive impact, more so than any other because it could bring attention to our sport, in a good light,” Schakow said. “It might open up opportunities for soccer players, both male and female.”

Scott said it will depend on how the school handles it. “What we have, however, is a system of bidding on young people to simply attend your program,” Scott said. “There will be places better equipped to handle this than others, just like college, and the rest will be playing catch up.”

Head coach Dale Hall stands in front of the North Marion High School baseball diamond with their “2023 State Champions” banner. (Kathryn Ross/WUFT News)
Head coach Dale Hall stands in front of the North Marion High School baseball diamond with their “2023 State Champions” banner. (Kathryn Ross/WUFT News)

Quartararo believes NIL could lead to opportunities for athletes to help fund their collegiate goals and create a name for themselves. He fears other athletes may not be as responsible.

“The new law could affect athletes like me by them only caring about the popularity and the money more than becoming a better student and athlete,” Quartararo said.

While the proposal would allow athletes to get paid, various conditions are involved. According to the three-page draft presented by the FHSAA, student-athletes would not be able to use their NIL with the use of anything associated with their school. The proposal also references a common trend at the collegiate level using NIL as a recruiting method. It said: “The NIL agreement shall not be used as a disguise for athletic recruiting.”

High schools recently have seen a trend of athletes transferring to schools where they have a better chance of getting recruited to play at a higher level. According to the draft, the NIL law limits transferring for NIL purposes, saying that if a student-athlete transfers to another school, they will not be allowed to participate in NIL for that season.

One thing many coaches have agreed on is the financial impact NIL could have. “This may actually help the high school families be in a better financial situation for their student to attend a smaller program in their sport of choice instead of looking for some big money pay-out from a school,” Scott said.

Matthew Williams, 18, is a junior quarterback and wide receiver for Gainesville High School. “I feel it is good,” Williams said. “[It is] an opportunity for kids to make money for their families and help them with a start for college.”

William’s teammate Zohn-ray Rochelle, 16, is a versatile freshman at Gainesville High School. “[It will] encourage kids to work harder to be good enough to get the money,” Rochelle said.

Despite the potential opportunities, many see the negatives outweighing the positives.

P.K. Yonge girl’s soccer head coach Rebecca Schakov talks to her team ahead of their game against Santa Fe High School on November 27. (Kathryn Ross/WUFT News)
P.K. Yonge girl’s soccer head coach Rebecca Schakov talks to her team ahead of their game against Santa Fe High School on November 27. (Kathryn Ross/WUFT News)

Dale Hall is the head coach of the North Marion High School baseball team, leading them to a state championship in 2023 and producing many MLB recruits. He said NIL has no place in high school athletics.

“We are making amateur athletics a business now at all levels,” Hall said. “This is a very slippery slope we’re going down.”

Hall explains that high school athletes have less resources than collegiate athletes have to help with the responsibilities of NIL. “High school athletes are trying to get an education based on a college scholarship,” Marshall said. “Well now, that seems to be secondary, and money has become primary.”

Schakow agrees. “They are still student-athletes who need to make sure academics are important in their formative years,” Schakow said.

High school athletics have largely been built around culture and traditions. This is one thing many agree has been ruined by NIL, including Hall. “I believe the cultures and traditions of high school athletics will be tainted just like we are seeing in college,” Hall said.

Scott also said that traditions and cultures disappeared long before this law was proposed and coaching will be affected. He said that many of the athletes will be paid more than their coaches, who do not make a living wage. Many coaches could leave their schools or their jobs as a response.

“You can get away with it in the pros because coaches are still getting paid a lot of money. In high school, the coaches are just going to leave and go elsewhere where the pay and care is better for them in this environment,” Scott said.

This law was proposed on Feb. 26, 2024, at the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board meeting. The athletic association met again on April 21 for a workshop to learn more about the topic. The board meeting for the organization was held following the workshop on April 21 and 22. Currently, the law is still in its discussion phase and nothing has been voted upon.

Though only a discussion, many believe that it will eventually lead to a deal because of the trends in athletics right now.

“Once you open Pandora’s Box, it’s very difficult to close it,” Marshall said. “Now they’ve opened it in college, but the fact that they’re gonna open it in high school is just a huge mistake.”

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