As many high school athletic directors begin to prepare for what seems like the inevitable in regards to Name, Image, and Likeness legislation in their own state, often it’s hard to really figure out where to start.
There is a lot of information out there.
There are a lot of “experts” in the field.
And for the past few years, the focus for NIL has been specific to college student-athletes and college athletics in general.
As this continues to trickle down into High Schools, it is still largely a new frontier. And partially, in my opinion, because it’s really hard to understand the administration of NIL in high school athletics unless you’ve worked inside of them.
So - while AD’s in Ohio gear up for their upcoming May OHSAA referendum vote, the goal of NIL-Education is to do whatever possible to educate, equip, and empower them with resources to understand this messy space further.
Recently the CEO of Opendorse Blake Lawrence, one of the leaders in the Name, Image, and Likeness space, was interviewed by AD insider and provided some advice for what High School AD’s should be doing in regards to Name, Image, and Likeness if a student-athlete comes to them…
You can listen to that here:
But I thought it would be helpful to outline some of the talking points and reflection areas to provide some additional context to help as AD’s work to gain clarity and prep for upcoming spring OHSAA regional meetings, and discussions within their district.
Tip #1 - Get clear guidance from your State Association
If your state doesn’t have a clear policy on NIL, it’s important to first contact the State High School Athletic Association to get a definitive answer on whether a high school student athlete can monetize their NIL AND maintain their eligibility as a high school athlete.
Now - this most likely looks different for each state.
In Ohio, they may say - “No they cannot.” But, there are gray areas that may not be discussed.
For example - if a student athlete is a football player and has completed their football season and is not participating in any other sport, they’re potentially good to go in regards to NIL.
It doesn’t jeopardize their amateur status in respect to their HS athletic association, BUT, they need to be careful in regards to any outstanding regulations that their individual States or Sport Governing bodies may have.
i/e - Golfers need to contact the USGA to ensure it doesn’t impact their amateur status for specific NIL opportunities.
If your state says Yes, they are able to monetize their NIL and retain their Amateur status (which hopefully you already knew), Blake states it’s important to ensure certain areas are focused on from an educational & compliance standpoint so that their ability to play at the collegiate level (if they choose) isn’t compromised.
Tip #2 - No “Quid Pro Quo”
Meaning that if a student-athlete enters into an NIL agreement, they MUST perform any activities that they are being compensated for. So if they’re getting compensated for something such as an appearance, they have to show up. If they don’t, that could be considered a pay for play compliance issue, and violate their amateurism status.
Tip #3 - "Pay for Performance"
“Pay for Performance” based agreements where any NIL money is tied to athletic performance are illegal.
You can’t garner any type of “pay” because of how you “perform”. No car wash for every birdie you make, or monetary gift for each home run you hit. The local Quarterback enters an NIL deal to promote the local restaurant in town and as part of that they get a free meal every time he throws a touchdown. They can't receive NIL benefits because of specific performances on the athletic field / court, etc. This is a NO - NO in the college space, so it’s important to ensure this is discussed and clarified at the high school space.
Tip #4 - NIL cannot be used for "Enrollment Inducement"
AKA - contracts / activities cannot be contingent upon the enrollment at a specific institution. I know - some of you may be reading through that last one and saying - what about the HS Junior football player who just signed an 8 million dollar deal by a NIL Collective while he’s still in high school? Isn’t that an enrollment inducement to attend that school? And that’s a great question - and more will come on that one as they continue to dig in the particulars / contract, etc., but, for right now - AD’s need to have two areas of focus here.
What does "enrollment inducement" look like for High School players? We haven’t seen an engagement with tuition being covered for a private school, or businesses offering a student athlete who would transfer to a school in their district, or enroll at a specific school after junior high…. But it might happen. Blake makes it very clear that “if a student athlete under your purview as an AD is being highly recruited, it is important to make sure that contract does not include any enrollment inducement elements to a higher ed institution”.
So again - what does all of this mean for high school athletic directors?
This could take hours to unpack, but, let’s face it, most of the amateurism policies surrounding NIL were developed with weight focused on the impact of playing at the college level, not high school.
The job of an Athletic Director at the High School level is one of the most under-appreciated, overworked roles there is.
They are managing so many elements daily, (and even more behind the scenes that most people don’t know about), in addition to often having duties outside of their athletic area.
So the sheer consideration of having to add this to their plate may make their heads spin…. And rightfully so.
They are working extremely hard to find funds to purchase basketballs, or football helmets, because the majority of the time their only revenue source - ticket sales, barely covers the officials.
High School Athletic Directors have had to become fundraisers. Building sponsorship programs that benefit the entire department so they can function, ultimately just to turn the lights on and get the buses gassed up.
Name, Image, & Likeness is a new world, and is quickly becoming a "new normal".
It’s one that a lot of people have views about, and that’s a good thing when these provide opportunities for supportive discussions about what's best for each district and their stakeholders.
But - as always - the key is to continually work to educate regarding policies, compliance, and overall safety for the benefit of the student-athletes, schools, and sport in general.
Educate. Equip. Empower.
Always here to help.
- Doc G
Dr. Scott Grant, or “Doc G” as his students call him, is former high school teacher, coach, and athletic director turned college professor in educational leadership / social media / branding, and founded Triple Threat Leadership, LLC. (www.triplethreatleadership.com) & NIL-Education (www.nil-education.com).
Need resources for Personal Branding & Social Media Education? Check out Dr. Grant's "Branding of ME" course, utilized by over 10,000 students, and integrated into hundreds of school curriculums across the country.
Learn more ---> https://www.triplethreatleadership.com/branding-of-me-course
Need help navigating Name, Image, and Likeness and preparing your program? Dr. Grant offers services to assist, and will develop specific tools / resources that fit your districts need.
Learn more ---> https://www.nil-education.com/nil-services
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