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Sports law levels field for athletes

As the $40.8 billion state budget bill suddenly zoomed through the Capitol, lawmakers quietly passed a long-overdue bill that will create fair compensation opportunities for college athletes in Pennsylvania.

In terms of competition, Penn State, Pitt and Temple football fans, and basketball fans of those and other major programs in the state, can rest a bit easier because the bill is similar to laws that legislatures of six Southeast Conference states recently passed.

The Pennsylvania university sports programs will not be at a disadvantage, then, in recruiting star athletes.

But more than that is that the law will add to the pressure on the NCAA to devise a fair way for the young athletes to share some of the billions of dollars that they generate for their schools, conferences and the NCAA itself.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf,

n Authorizes college athletes to earn compensation for the use of their names or images.

n Prohibits universities and the NCAA from hindering athletes legally seeking compensation, and from using the prospect of compensation as a recruiting incentive.

n Requires entities selling college team merchandise to make a royalty payment to each athlete whose name, image or likeness is used on the merchandise.

The bill does provide universities with the ability to preclude licensing deals for athletes that conflict with its own, and it allows Them to reject arrangements that conflict with the university’s values.

Even though it might have to be tweaked as practices develop on the ground, this bill is a good first step into the new world of compensation for college athletes.

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