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LSU coach Ed Orgeron embraces quarterback Joe Burrow after the Tigers defeated Alabama 46-41 on Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

A bill that would allow student athletes at LSU and elsewhere to make money from their name and likeness won approval Thursday in the Senate Education Committee.

The measure, Senate Bill 60, cleared the panel without objection.

It next faces action in the full Senate.

"It protects the schools, it protects the athletes," said Sen. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero and sponsor of the legislation.

"It is something we need to do," Connick added.

The action comes at a time when other states are enacting similar measures  and the U.S. Congress is considering doing the same.

Backers say the move is long overdue, especially since colleges often make millions of dollars based on the performance of athletes who are barred from profiting from their success.

Critics contend new policies could dampen intercollegiate athletics and set off bidding wars among schools offering lucrative financial deals.

D-D Breaux, the former gymnastics coach who now serves as an ambassador for LSU, told the committee other states have passed similar bills with varying effective dates.

Breaux noted that many athletes are on partial scholarships.

"It is going to help our student athletes to take advantage of their own individual talents, beyond just what they do on the playing fields," she said. "To free this up and have our athletes use their own names and likeness would truly be a benefit for our student athletes."

Connick filed a similar bill more than a year ago.

However, he shelved the measure during the coronavirus pandemic when regular and special legislative sessions focused on emergency economic and health assistance.

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State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, and others on the committee questioned whether Louisiana is moving too fast, and running the risk of incurring the wrath of the NCAA.

"I am going to live on faith that we can survive this thing and the NCAA is not going to come down and crush us," said Sen. Robert Mills, R-Minden and a member of the committee.

"I support the bill and am scared to death," Mills said.

Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge and another committee member, said he supports the bill but is concerned athletes in only select states will be able to earn money for their likeness.

"When you start recruiting this is going to be absolute mayhem," Talbot said.

He said some schools may offer licensing agreements that allow athletes to keep 80% of the revenue and others 70%.

"If this is up to the schools the small schools are going to get crushed," Talbot said. "You are never going to a Louisiana Tech. You are going to go to the highest bidder."

Talbot said he is an Ole Miss graduate and his wife finished at Louisiana Tech.

Connick countered that, if Louisiana does not act, athletes here will be at a disadvantage.

Others said NCAA officials generally agree with the concept of allowing athletes to make money from their name and likeness and are trying to figure out how it should work.

Sen. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, also voiced concerns about passing a law that sparks the wrath of the NCAA.

"Are they going to come back and accuse us of being in violation?" Abraham asked.

LSU officials and Connick said the state would be on solid legal ground if the bill becomes law.

 

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.