The sports world is a buzz since the NCAA created a temporary waiver to allow their athletes in all three divisions to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness (NIL). This is known as the athlete's "right to publicity", opening the door to all kind of endorsements and marketing promotions for college athletes. Included in the NCAA temporary law is the right of athletes to hire an agent to help them with their NIL opportunities. NCAA officials hope that Congress will enact federal legislation so that the law can be equal in all 50 states.
The California legislature was the first to pass a state law but more than a dozen states have followed their lead, including the state of Alabama, which passed its version that Governor Kay Ivey signed into law on May 20th. This NCAA rule went into effect on July 1st and athletes started signing endorsement deals.
How does the NIL issue affect high school athletes? In most of the state laws, the verbage says "college athletes" or "students at post secondary schools". Legislators seemed to want to distinguish between high school and college athletes in the NIL laws. However, prospective collegiate student athletes still in high school may sign contracts and take on agents without effecting their college eligibility.
Dr. Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director of the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), says that athletes and their parents completing their senior year must adhere to state association rules or could lose their high school eligibility. A senior football player who also plays baseball in the spring cannot sign on under the NCAA NIL rule without jeopardizing his eligibilty to play baseball.
"The NFHS and its member state associations will continue to protect the high school environment", Dr. Niehoff states, "and lead the conversation to clarify the definition of a high school student-athlete relative to NIL". Dr. Niehoff also fears that the NIL for scholastic athletes "would completely disrupt the high school environment when these students come into the high school locker room. These two worlds cannot co-exist as the high school environment most likely will be the one that is compromised. " The NFHS also fears getting involved with agents. "Once you let them in, you will never be able to get them out," says Dr. Niehoff.
Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was a counselor for the Elite 11 QB Camp for the top high school quarterback prospects this past weekend and spoke to them about the financial possibilities that are going to be available to them soon.
“It’s eye-opening to realize what you can do with your name, image and likeness, especially with Spencer here,” Texas A&M commit Conner Weigman told 247Sports' Andrew Ivins. “He’s making big money.”
High school football coaches that have high profile recruited athletes will have to coach their teams and keep those players working as part of the team. Keeping their head on straight with the looming possibility of the NIL will increase the difficulty of the high school football coach.
Chris Hummer of 247 sports said in his July 2nd article that high school athletes may be able to take advantage of the NIL in California.
High school athletes in California can profit from their NIL with the only restriction being an inability to utilize their high school’s name or marks, according to the California Interscholastic Federation. A CIF spokesperson confirmed this to 247Sports- Chris Hummer 247 Sports.
State athletic associations all have "amateur rules" prohibiting high school athletes from receiving pay of any kind and the leaders of those associations will certainly work to maintain those rules in the wake of NIL.
There has been praise for all corners that financially disadvantaged college athletes will now have the ability to help their families before waiting to turn pro. There has also been praise that now some female athletes may be able to use NIL in college to earn money that even pro sports does not make available to them later. Will this be part of the arguments that are used as a push to allow high schoolers to be a part of the NIL revolution?
As long as state legislatures specifically keep their laws excluding high school athletes it will be an easier fight for state associations and the NFHS. Only time can tell where the NIL road will lead and the problems that will emerge in the future for college teams and high school teams as well.