TRENTON – College athletes in New Jersey might be allowed to start earning compensation from endorsement deals much sooner than had been expected – in two weeks, rather than in four years.

A state ‘name, image and likeness’ law enacted last September as part of a movement to end the National Collegiate Athletic Association restrictions on college athletes’ income included a five-year moratorium, taking effect in fall of 2025 to give the NCAA time to come up with a national plan.

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But that plan has been slow to develop despite NIL laws taking effect in other states soon, and Congress hasn’t stepped in though has shown interest in the issue. So, on Tuesday, the state Senate Higher Education Committee endorsed a bill, S3931, speeding up the effective date of New Jersey’s law to July 1 of this year.

Rutgers University basketball star Geo Baker testified in favor of the bill at the hearing.

“I’m excited that there’s a necessary change coming to college athletics,” Baker said. “However, the bill that was created here in New Jersey does not go into effect until 2025 – something that needs to be changed immediately.”

“My name, image and likeness is owned by another entity,” he said. “I view this as a clear violation of basic human rights, and I believe that all of you do as well, which is why you adopted the bill that you did. However, I believe that human rights should never be delayed.”

Baker was among the most vocal in a group of athletes protesting the NCAA’s treatment of student-athletes during this year men’s basketball tournament, when Rutgers made its first March Madness appearance in 30 years and won its first tournament game since 1983.

He said the law will grant college athletes the same rights as every other student on campus and “needs to be put into place now, not later.”

“I believe when the bill was first created, the intentions were pure,” Baker said. “But the NCAA has shown time and time again that they will not act on their own, which is why New Jersey must act.”

Baker said 20 states have adopted ‘name, image and likeness’ laws, including six that go into effect on July 1.

“New Jersey shouldn’t leave its athletes’ rights in the hands of the NCAA, which has done nothing but exploit athletes economically over and over again,” he said. “Without action, New Jersey athletes will be subject to continued exploitation. New Jersey athletic programs will be at a severe recruiting disadvantage for years.”

Baker has entered his name into this year’s NBA draft but has not retained an agent, meaning he maintains one year of college eligibility. He has until July to decide whether to return to college.

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The sponsors of the bill speeding up the law’s effective date are the same ones who were the primary sponsors of the initial bill: Sen. Joseph Lagana, D-Bergen, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, and Senate Minority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.

There isn't yet an Assembly companion version of the bill.

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