- In six states, laws that let college athletes profit from sponsorships will go into effect July 1.
- The NCAA is not expected to make changes that would let college athletes in other states do the same.
- This imbalance could influence the decisions of high-school recruits.
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College athletes in six states will soon be able to sign endorsement deals, while athletes in the other states will be denied those opportunities for now.
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Tennessee have all passed state laws that grant college athletes the right to profit off their name, image, and likeness. The new rules are scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), however, has not changed its rules for student athletes, so players at schools in all other US states won’t be eligible for the same benefits. The association was expected to vote earlier this year on reforms that might have altered these policies, but that vote delayed the vote indefinitely in January.
The NCAA held a council meeting on Wednesday but did not pass any new reforms.
That means college sports programs across the US may soon face a disparity in their ability to recruit athletes out of high school, since only a few will allow sponsorship opportunities.
What’s more, none of the new state laws prevent program boosters – people who make financial or in-kind contributions to improve a school’s athletic program – from working directly with endorsement agencies to provide sponsorship deals for athletes. That could deepen the disparity.
“It will be a huge advantage in recruiting,” Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, told Sports Illustrated. “You can’t control the boosters. When you give them openings, based on my experiences, they become uncontrollable.”
‘We don’t want to lose a competitive edge’
C. Scott Bounds, a Republican member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, helped pass his state’s new law.
“I don’t think any state is happy about this legislation, but we’re seeing this as a necessity,” Bounds told Sports Illustrated. “We don’t want to lose a competitive edge in recruiting, both athletically and academically.”
Other Southeastern Conference states that haven’t passed similar reforms – Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas – all have proposed state legislation in progress like Mississippi’s, but no laws will be finalized in time to go into effect by July 1.
State legislatures in Michigan, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Iowa are also considering bills through that would grant college athletes new rights to profit from their name, image, and likeness.
Former University of Nebraska linebacker Blake Lawrence, who has been pushing the proposed legislation in that state, emphasized the recruiting advantage it would bring.
“Today starts a new battle in the next decade of recruiting in college sports,” Lawrence told The Los Angeles Times. “That battle is educating potential recruits on what your program is going to do to help you maximize the value of your NIL [name, image, and likeness] on campus.”
The NCAA could pass a national rule to maintain recruiting parity
The NCAA has the ability to keep schools from using their states’ new rules to boost recruiting: To do so, the association would have to introduce a new, universal reform that would apply to all college athletes, with built-in guard rails to prevent boosters from connecting college athletes with endorsement partners.
Former NBA player Len Elmore has said the NCAA should do this before endorsements start distracting young athletes from both their sport and academics. Elmore co-chairs the Knights Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which is dedicated to pushing for reforms for college athletes.
“The reason for compensation for name, image, and likeness has to be based upon their popularity – based upon the marketplace that is desirable for having that athlete involved – as opposed to artificially propping up the price so that you can recruit that athlete from somebody else,” Elmore told Insider.
NCAA president Mark Emmert has encouraged the association’s council to pass a resolution that would allow all college athletes to profit from their names and images, according to The New York Times. But Emmert’s wishes went unaddressed on Wednesday.
Several bills have also been introduced at the federal level that would enable all college athletes to earn endorsements, but they’ve seen little progress in Congress.