Bipartisan name, image and likeness legislation that’s a top priority for University of Missouri football coach Eli Drinkwitz will be signed into law Tuesday by Governor Mike Parson (R).

Mizzou football coach Eli Drinkwitz (right) met with numerous individual state lawmakers on May 6, 2021 in Jefferson City, including State Sen. Denny Hoskins (left); file photo courtesy of Senator Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg)

The provision is included in a large higher education bill, which is sponsored by State Rep. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau).

A bipartisan coalition of conservative Republicans, progressive Democrats and others pushed for the name, image and likeness legislation, saying it will help Mizzou better compete against defending national champion Alabama and other SEC opponents.

A provision in House Bill 297 prohibits Missouri public and private higher education institutions from preventing a student from earning compensation for the student’s name, image, likeness rights or athletic reputation.

The bill also prohibits higher education institutions “from revoking or reducing any grant-in-aid or stipend if a student earns compensation.” It also requires attorneys or agents representing an athlete to be licensed in Missouri.

Coach Drinkwitz traveled to the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City on May 6 to meet with lawmakers and to push for the legislation.

State Reps. Jeff Knight (R-Lebanon) and Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) had a House floor discussion that day, and outlined what Coach Drinkwitz had told lawmakers. Knight told Schroer that the legislation is needed to help Drinkwitz compete against Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who recruits Missouri high school players. Coach Saban has won six national championships in Tuscaloosa, since 2009.

“He (Coach Drinkwitz) made mention of two Missouri athletes right now, and their final two schools is the University of Missouri and Alabama,” Representative Knight told Schroer that day.

“And Alabama has passed this,” Schroer responded.

Representative Knight, who attended Mizzou and has been a longtime high school coach in southwest Missouri, says Alabama lawmakers moved quickly. He says the provision is crucial to helping the Tigers compete better.

“Anytime you get a program to that level where you’re recruiting against Alabama and they (the Alabama Legislature) have passed this legislation and we haven’t, you’re just not putting the tools in his (Coach Drinkwitz) toolbox he needs to compete in the SEC,” Knight says.

In addition to Schroer and Knight, numerous other lawmakers in both parties pushed for the provision. They include Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), State Sen. Greg Razer (D-Kansas City), former Tiger and State Rep. Kurtis Gregory (R-Marshall), and State Reps. Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) and Kevin Windham (D-Hillsdale).

Representative Schroer emphasizes the issue is bipartisan, saying that red and blue states “appreciate the capitalist free-market principles that are in this amendment,” referencing the name, image and likeness provision.

The overall higher education bill contains several other key provisions, including removing the tuition cap restriction. The bill requires public higher education institutions that utilize differentiated tuition to notify the state, and to no longer use required course fees.

Representative Wallingford’s bill also designates Cape Girardeau’s Southeast Missouri State University as an institution with a statewide mission in visual and performing arts, computer science and cybersecurity.

And it designates Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville as an institution with a statewide mission in educator preparation, emergency/disaster management and profession-based learning.

Wallingford’s bill was given final approval by the Missouri Senate in May, with a 23-9 vote. The final House vote in May was 145-8.

Click here to listen to the May 6, 2021 Missouri House floor discussion about name, image and likeness between State Reps. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) and Jeff Knight (R-Lebanon). Mizzou football coach Eli Drinkwitz had been in the chamber that morning:

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