Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville and West Virginia senator Joe Manchin intend to draft a bill to present to Congress that would regulate name, image and likeness activities within college sports, their offices announced Wednesday.
The pair of U.S. senators sent a letter, dated Wednesday, to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey outlining their current concerns about NIL and asking for the SEC’s input. Tuberville’s office told AL.com that letters were also sent to a “broad range of stakeholders, including [athletics directors], commissioners, student groups, etc.”
Manchin, a Democrat, is a childhood friend of Alabama coach Nick Saban. Tuberville, a Republican and former Auburn coach, also has a long-standing friendship with Saban.
Tuberville told Sports Illustrated that both he and Manchin have spoken to Saban about the issues surrounding NIL.
“I’ve talked to all my [coaching] buddies. They’ve never seen anything like it,” Tuberville told SI. “When you don’t have guidelines and direction, no matter what you are doing, you are lost. They are all lost right now.”
Tuberville told The Paul Finebaum Show later Wednesday that he has spoken to multiple coaches and conference commissioners about the topic.
“Joe Manchin and I will take all this information,” Tuberville said. “We will try to set some guidelines — not overreach our bounds, not try to deter anybody making any money [among] student-athletes.”
The senator — who was elected in 2020 after serving as head coach at Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati — also said the efforts to regulate the current environment of college football could extend beyond NIL.
“We want to try to help with the transfer portal and try to make it fair,” he said. “You can’t really build a team right now because you don’t know who you’re going to have each year. We do not want this to be the NBA or the NFL.”
Saban has joined several other prominent voices around college sports in calling for federal legislation that would give the NCAA more legal ability to regulate NIL. Saban and many other coaches have expressed frustration with how NIL funds are being used to entice recruits, but Saban has noted how the NCAA needs “protection from litigation” to enact rules that would withstand legal challenges following last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling.
“The arms race of NIL implementation has already far exceeded the original post-Alston intent of ensuring that players are equitably compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness,” reads the letter from Tuberville and Manchin to Sankey. “A lack of clear, enforceable rules is creating an environment that potentially allows for the exploitation of student-athletes by unregulated entities, prioritizes short-term financial gain over careful investment in one’s career and the lifelong value of education, and diminishes the role of coaches, mentors, and athletic staff while empowering wealthy boosters. In short, we are rapidly accelerating down a path that leads away from the traditional values associated with scholastic athletic competition.”
Sankey and Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff visited Washington to discuss NIL legislation earlier this year, although Sankey does not expect a solution to emerge from Congress until at least after November’s midterm elections. Sankey added last month at SEC media days that, “we need a bipartisan solution for this national concept.”
“The lack of meaningful leadership and a lack of clarity in this area resulting from Alston means that the U.S. Congress must act to set clear ground rules for student-athletes and institutions alike,” the letter to Sankey continues. “Like you, we have the common goals of protecting student-athletes, ensuring fair competition and compensation, and preserving the time-honored traditions of college sports.”
Added Tuberville to Sports Illustrated: “We are not getting involved with the [NIL] money. We want to get into some rules — who you can give money and how. Something like that. We don’t know the direction this is going to take us. We want to come up with something that we can sell to both sides of the aisle.”
Any bill brought forth by Manchin and Tuberville would still need to clear Congress, where other bills on the subject have yet to make substantial progress.“We are going to have to solve that ourselves in my opinion,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach told SEC Network last month. “College and conferences and things. We need to solve that ourselves. I’ve never bought the notion that Congress was going to be very helpful. First of all, we know more about the problem than they do. Second of all, we know more of how we got there than they do. Third of all, just for fun — tell me three things Congress has accomplished in the past five years.”