Student athlete endorsement bill approved by Senate

University of New Mexico nose tackle Ben Gansallo (99) celebrates a quarterback sack in the Lobos’ 17-16 win over Wyoming on Dec. 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A bill that would allow student athletes to make money from endorsement deals and sponsorships is moving forward at the Roundhouse. (AP Photo/John Locher)

SANTA FE — A bill allowing college athletes in New Mexico to make money from endorsement deals and sponsorships is headed to the House after winning decisive approval in the Senate.

Members of the Senate voted 39-0 on Friday to approve the measure, Senate Bill 94, which is similar to laws passed in California, Colorado and several other states.

“Our student athletes should be able to benefit from their hard work and earn a living,” said Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, a former University of New Mexico football player who is one of the bill’s sponsors.

The issue of student athlete compensation has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as current regulations from the National Collegiate Athletic Administration bar any payments to athletes beyond scholarship costs.

Under amendments tacked onto this year’s bill in a Senate committee, New Mexico universities would be barred from arranging third-party payments to athletes as part of the recruiting process.

But they would also be prohibited from penalizing student athletes for making money from endorsement deals and sponsorships. Student athletes would also be able to accept food, lodging or medical aid without penalty.

During Friday’s debate, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, questioned whether the bill could hurt smaller universities by making larger schools more attractive.

However, he ultimately joined other senators in voting for the bill, including Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, who said the legislation could enable student athletes to pay for basic essentials.

“Not everyone can make as much money as LeBron James and Tom Brady,” Pirtle said.

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