The Murky Rules that Currently Govern NIL

Last Updated on November 4, 2023

As the NCAA tries to find a way to protect student athletes, Congress introduces bills, and states adopt their own laws, the space of name, image and likeness for college athletes is shrouded in confusion and potential legal battles. 

The patchwork rules that the NCAA rolled out in 2021 regarding NIL have created chaos in the collegiate athletic sphere with millions of dollars being handed out to athletes and no regulations in place to protect student athletes. 

Among the biggest issues with the current NIL rules provided by the NCAA are the lack of protection for student athletes engaging with agents, brands and sponsors, and transparency in the NIL space. 

“I think it was a big mistake by the NCAA not to do a framework around NIL when they had the opportunity to,” NCAA President Baker said during the Future of College Athletics Summit, not far from Capitol Hill. “And I think there were too many people in college sports who thought no rules would work really well for them. And what everybody’s discovered is no rules, no transparency, no accountability, no framework, doesn’t work well for anybody.” 

The Division I Council Working Group on NIL met and created proposals for NIL that were presented to the Division I Council in October. 

Current NCAA Proposals

Some of the proposals include the creation of a registration process for NIL service providers and entities, standard contract terms that would include information like fee structure and specific activities for compensation, and disclosure requirements to be used as a resource for transparency for student-athletes. 

There are currently no rules or regulations in place for who student athletes work with, leaving them at the whim of the entity giving them the NIL deal. There is also no standard contract in place for agreements between student athletes and NIL servicers. 

“After watching the NIL landscape develop, NCAA members have identified additional resources for student-athletes so they can make informed decisions about their NIL activities,” said Lynda Tealer, chair of the DI Council, chair of the working group and deputy athletics director at Florida. “Division I members support college athletes benefiting from the use of their name, image and likeness to the fullest extent, and in no way intend to limit their potential. It is our hope that these changes will improve outcomes for student-athletes and help campus leaders navigate this issue with greater clarity.”

State NIL Laws

States are trying and have successfully worked around the loose framework that the NCAA provided upon NIL arrival, which may set the stage for legal battles. Some states, like Texas, passed laws allowing boosters and fundraisers closely associated with universities to pay NIL endorsements to athletes. 

California was the first state to adopt an NIL law, which is called “The Fair Pay to Play Act” and includes no restrictions on who or what student athletes can work with. As of August 29, 31 states currently have NIL laws in place. Alabama and South Carolina had laws in place, but Alabama repealed the law while South Carolina suspended it.

Stan Wilcox, the NCAA Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, sent a letter to schools in June warning them about trying to bypass NCAA rules. 

“The Association has been clear and maintains that schools must adhere to NCAA legislation (or policy) when it conflicts with permissive state laws,” Wilcox wrote in the letter “In other words, if a state law permits certain institutional action and NCAA legislation prohibits the same action, institutions must follow NCAA legislations.”

Proposed Federal Legislation

While Congress has tried to work its way into the picture, including four new bills, nothing has ever left the committee floors. NCAA President Baker has been trying to work with Congress to act on this issue before it grows even larger. 

As it currently stands, the NIL space is mudded with issues of protection, cohesion and transparency. While efforts are being made, student athletes have no protection in place heading into another year of collegiate sports.  Through NCAA committees and meetings, state laws, and federal action, the future of NIL is still looking for an answer to protect student athletes and ensure they have the best possible experience. 

Author

  • Colin Lyle

    Colin is a recent Sports Journalism and Media graduate from the University of Florida. Colin loves baseball and basketball and hopes to grow the game of baseball around the world.

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