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NM weighs bill loosening compensation rules for college athletes

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)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Student athletes at New Mexico colleges and universities would be allowed to earn compensation from product endorsements and similar work under legislation nearing passage in the state Legislature.

The proposal, Senate Bill 94, advanced through a House committee Monday and is now headed to the full House for consideration – the last approval necessary to send the measure to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Sen. Mark Moores, an Albuquerque Republican and former college football player, said the legislation would uphold free market and social justice principles.

Student athletes now face severe limitations on what sorts of jobs they can hold – restrictions intended to maintain their status as amateur athletes.

But Moores, an offensive tackle at the University of New Mexico, said many of his teammates “struggled immensely when they were in school. Many of them dropped out because they couldn’t handle the financial burdens of being a student athlete.”

The bill would prohibit colleges and universities from penalizing a student athlete for receiving food, shelter, medical expenses or insurance from a third party.

Lobo Zane Martin, right, pulls away from the Air Force’s A.J. Walker, as he dives trying to steal the ball in January 2020. A bill that would allow student athletes to be compensated for endorsements and similar work is nearing passage in the Legislature. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The athlete would also be permitted to earn compensation resulting from the use of their name, image, likeness or athletic reputation. The changes would allow athletes to make money for appearing in advertisements, agreeing to product placement deals on their social media or coaching, among other work.

New Mexico colleges would, however, be barred from arranging outside compensation as a recruiting inducement for athletes.

The law might put New Mexico in conflict with NCAA rules, according to analysts for the Legislature. But Moores said California, Colorado and other states already have passed similar laws – a move that is likely to force the National Collegiate Athletic Association to change its rules.

“Quite frankly,” Moores said, “this is about forcing the NCAA to modernize.”

The bipartisan proposal is jointly sponsored by Moores and two Democrats – Sen. Bill O’Neill and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, both of Albuquerque.

O’Neill played football for Cornell University.

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