UF AD Strick­lin: Ath­lete com­pen­sa­tion bill lat­est chal­lenge dur­ing pan­demic

Orlando Sentinel - - Weather - By Edgar Thomp­son Email Edgar Thomp­son at egth­omp­son@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com.

GAINESVILL­E – The ath­lete com­pen­sa­tion bill Gov. Ron DeSan­tis signed into law last week is the lat­est chal­lenge UF ath­let­ics di­rec­tor Scott Strick­lin must nav­i­gate dur­ing a spring of sea change in col­lege sports and be­yond.

The coro­n­avirus spread forced Strick­lin to pull the plug on sports in March and face the possibilit­y of mas­sive fi­nan­cial losses dur­ing the fall. This month’s protests sparked by Ge­orge Floyd’s killing by Min­neapo­lis po­lice three weeks ago led Strick­lin to reach out to coaches, ath­letes and staff to dis­cuss racial in­jus­tice. The name, im­age and like­ness bill signed into law by DeSan­tis is ex­pected to change how col­lege ath­letes in Florida are com­pen­sated in the fu­ture.

Dur­ing a ra­dio in­ter­view Wed­nes­day with a Gainesvill­e ra­dio sta­tion, Strick­lin called the bill the lat­est “dis­rup­tion” dur­ing a tu­mul­tuous few months.

“There’s been so much — and this is not a neg­a­tive word, it’s the word that keeps pop­ping my head — dis­rup­tion in re­cent months to what has tra­di­tion­ally been what we would call nor­mal,” Strick­lin said. “You started with COVID. The racial in­jus­tice, I think in some ways, was healthy be­cause it’s caus­ing a lot of peo­ple to re­assess, but the im­age and like­ness is go­ing to be an­other dis­rup­tion.

“I think if it’s done right, it can be very healthy. The devil, as they say, is always in the de­tails.“”

Florida is not the only state to sign leg­is­la­tion that would al­low col­lege ath­letes to profit from their name, im­age and like­ness. Cal­i­for­nia and Colorado have ap­proved sim­i­lar laws.

Strick­lin ex­pects other states to have leg­is­la­tion in place before the Florida law goes into ef­fect in July 2021.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio in­tro­duced an ath­lete com­pen­sa­tion bill Thurs­day that is sup­ported by UF and the SEC. It would su­per­sede all state laws, if ap­proved.

“If Florida is the only state that has it when July ’21 rolls around, we’ll be pre­pared to help our stu­dent-ath­letes nav­i­gate that,” Strick­lin told long­time ra­dio host Steve Rus­sell on ESPN-98.1 FM. “But my guess is other states are not go­ing to sit around and let that hap­pen. So I think a na­tional law would help stan­dard­ize the process around the coun­try.”

Strick­lin said he fully ex­pects

Washington, D.C., de­ci­sion-mak­ers to weigh in. A na­tional stan­dard by which ath­letes ben­e­fit from their name, im­age and like­ness would be prefer­able to states set­ting their own laws.

Oth­er­wise, some states might have an ad­van­tage lur­ing ath­letes to their cam­puses with prom­ises of money to be made by en­dorse­ments and spon­sor­ships. The new Florida law will not al­low state colleges to com­pen­sate ath­letes for their per­for­mance.

“It’s some­thing we got to make sure that all our ath­letes un­der­stand their op­por­tu­nity and what their rights are,” Strick­lin said. “We re­ally don’t want it to be part of the re­cruit­ing process. I don’t think any­body wants that.

“But how we achieve that is re­ally go­ing to be some­thing we’re go­ing to have to … work re­ally dili­gently to pro­vide for our stu­dent-ath­letes in a way that doesn’t turn col­lege ath­let­ics into pro sports.”

Strick­lin has said UF ath­letes fi­nan­cially ben­e­fit dur­ing their time in col­lege.

The Univer­sity Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion bud­geted $14.5 mil­lion in 2020-21 for ath­letic schol­ar­ships. This does not in­clude travel, med­i­cal care and sup­port ser­vices. Each ath­lete re­ceived a cost-of-at­ten­dance stipend of $3,810 from the univer­sity each se­mes­ter of the 2019-20 aca­demic year.

“I’m always a lit­tle sen­si­tive when peo­ple say that now ath­letes can start earn­ing money, can start get­ting com­pen­sa­tion,” Strick­lin said. “They’ve been re­ceiv­ing com­pen­sa­tion of value from schools with schol­ar­ships and cost-of-at­ten­dance dol­lars and ev­ery­thing. What is go­ing to change is they’ll have an op­por­tu­nity out­side of that for other com­pen­sa­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties from spon­sor­ships and the like.”

In ad­di­tion to the name, im­age and like­ness bill, Strick­lin also dis­cussed the “Lis­ten, Learn and Act” ini­tia­tive re­cently im­ple­mented within his de­part­ment to ad­dress racial and so­cial is­sues.

“The most im­por­tant thing we all can do right now is be sen­si­tive and take what­ever ac­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate for you,” Strick­lin said. “For me per­son­ally, it’s been a lot of lis­ten­ing and a lot of pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­nity for a voice for those that have been af­fected by racial jus­tice. We’ve heard a lot of com­pelling con­ver­sa­tions the past two or three weeks.”

The men’s bas­ket­ball team kicked it off the series Tues­day, with play­ers and coaches par­tic­i­pat­ing in a Zoom video­con­fer­ence. Strick­lin was among the more than 160 UF ath­letic de­part­ment em­ploy­ees who lis­tened to the per­sonal per­spec­tive of ath­letes and coaches from coach Mike White’s pro­gram.

“[We] watched an hour-long con­ver­sa­tion that was re­ally au­then­tic and heart­felt and eye-open­ing in a lot of ways,” Strick­lin said. “To hear the per­cep­tion of what some of our staff and some of our ath­letes have ex­pe­ri­enced in life and the im­pact that’s had and the importance to try to take steps to make a dif­fer­ence so they don’t con­tinue to have those ex­pe­ri­ences and oth­ers that come af­ter them don’t have those ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Some­times, I think it’s un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions, and a lot of times that’s the best way you learn and the best way you move for­ward.”

ROB FOLDY/GETTY IM­AGES

UF ath­let­ics di­rec­tor Scott Strick­lin is in his fourth year lead­ing the Ga­tors’ sports pro­grams.

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