Gov. Tom Wolf, Penn State athletic community celebrate state's NIL legislation

JON SAUBER
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

UNIVERSITY PARK — Pennsylvania passed a law allowing college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness in late June, and on Monday, several government officials — including Gov. Tom Wolf — and Penn Staters gathered in the club level of Beaver Stadium to celebrate the accomplishment.

"For too long, college athletes were barred from earning compensation for endorsements," Wolf said. "Forced to allow other entities to profit off their successes in order to play the sports they love. Pennsylvania's college athletes have earned their fame through hard work and dedication. ... Now, our athletes will no longer be forced to choose between receiving fair compensation and continuing to play. They're going to be able to do both."

Article XX-K of Senate Bill 381, which was signed into law as part of the state budget, allows college athletes to receive compensation and prevents the NCAA, conferences or schools from intervening in any way.

The bill came together quickly, with a little help along the way.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said Penn State head coach James Franklin reached out to him late one night, a rarity according to Corman. The conversation that ensued brought the bill to the forefront of Corman's mind.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Benner Township.

"I thought he wanted to talk about the offense this year," Corman said with a laugh. "It wasn't about the offense, he wanted to talk about this issue. When I jumped into it the next day, Scott Martin, our education chairman, was way out ahead of this. ... When we decided to put it together, the work had been done."

PSU community weighs in: The celebration of the NIL bill also included remarks from Penn State President Eric Barron, athletic director Sandy Barbour and Penn State basketball's Anna Camden and football's Jahan Dotson, as well as Rep. Ed Gainey, the Democratic nominee in the Pittsburgh mayoral election.

Camden discussed the opportunities the Nittany Lions STATEment program — a program designed to aide students in understanding and growing their brand through meaningful education programs and an emphasis on entrepreneurship — will provide for student-athletes at the university, as well as the importance of the NIL bill when it comes to student rights.

Penn State women's basketball player Anna Camden

"NIL is not only about making money, but about equal rights for students," Camden said. "Before now, any other student on any other scholarship could capitalize on their name, image and likeness. Now the playing field has been leveled. I'm incredibly grateful, excited for the future, and above all inspired — inspired by what I've already seen and what I know is to come."

Camden — a rising junior guard on the women's basketball team — mentioned the entrepreneurial aspect of the bill and how Penn State can help from that standpoint, which was also a key point Barbour drove home during her statement.

"The word we are using at Penn State, because I think it really captures what this opportunity means, is 'entrepreneurial,'" Barbour said. "... Our STATEment program is designed to provide students with access to skill building, and experience in an entrepreneurial setting. We've come to refer to it as their entrepreneurial adventure."

The legislation: The new bill, which coincided with the NCAA passing an interim policy to allow student-athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness, introduces a new age of college athletics that will empower athletes to grow their brand and make money while they're on scholarship, much like students on scholarship in other fields were already permitted to do.

The decision to enact NIL legislation early in Pennsylvania was a point of pride for Barron and those who spoke Monday morning.

"It's our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure their success beyond college," Barron said. "... We appreciate the fact that Pennsylvania has enacted a law that gives student-athletes the ability to earn compensation based on their NIL."