UF AD Stricklin: Athlete compensation bill latest challenge during pandemic
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.”
UF athletics director Scott Stricklin is in his fourth year leading the Gators’ sports programs.