Following responses from dozens of athletic stakeholders across the country, Senators drafting bipartisan sports legislation release initial findings
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today announced some of the key findings from their outreach to various athletic leaders to build consensus around legislation related to name, image, and likeness (NIL). The topline themes and notable responses announced today are based on feedback submitted by a broad range of stakeholders, including university athletic directors, administrators, associations, collectives, and student-athlete groups. These groups submitted input in response to two letters sent from the Senators to solicit feedback in August and September.
After combining the feedback received from those two letters and analyzing the common themes, Senators Tuberville and Manchin categorized the issues and ideas addressed by multiple responses. The most common aspects of the NIL system noted in stakeholder responses were the role of collectives, the prevalence of inducements creating a pay-for- play system, the need for contract transparency and fairness, the importance of education and the preservation of the student athlete experience, and protecting the ability of small institutions to participate.
Examples of feedback from those common themes can be found below.
ON ADDRESSING THE ROLE OF COLLECTIVES-Commissioners of the Autonomy Conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference — full letter available here.)
“…boosters should have no role in recruiting high school and transfer student- athletes. We need a federal law that prohibits conduct of this nature…it appears boosters are inducing high school and potential transfer student- athletes to attend their favored universities with payments inaccurately labeled as NIL licenses, with no connection to the value of any endorsement or NIL activity.”
“…collectives should be prohibited from any participation in the process of soliciting an individual’s enrollment at the institution. The intent of NIL legislation was to allow student-athletes to find legitimate opportunities to be compensated for the use of their NIL; it was not to find a way around the rules that would allow boosters to be involved in the recruiting process.”-American Athletic Conference
“…it is naïve to think these collectives are not acting in concert with coaches or other constituents at the institution…While the law must not be burdensome…NIL deals [must] remain above-board.”-United States Collegiate Athletic Association
ON INDUCEMENTS-National Collegiate Athletic Association
“Anecdotal stories of student-athletes who have made a commitment to one school only to be persuaded to rescind their agreement after a promise of NIL payments are becoming increasingly prevalent and alarming.”
“We clearly have some who are utilizing this unregulated area as an inducement in the recruitment of prospects and transfers which was never intended and is inappropriate and not consistent with the traditions and values of intercollegiate athletics.”-Mid-American Conference
“Congress can prevent NIL agreements from being used as inducements to lure high school recruits and college transfers to a particular college.”-National College Players Association
“While we fully support an athlete’s right to compensation for their NIL and to transfer freely, we feel many collectives are diminishing fair play. Without regulation college athletic departments are transforming into [de] facto professional sports franchises. However, unlike professional teams, collegiate athletes are not under contract and can easily transfer. This results in a “free agency marketplace” where schools with the most aggressive collectives and largest bankrolls (“pay for play”) recruit the best athletes to their programs.”-315 Foundation
ON CONTRACT TRANSPARENCY AND FAIRNESSCommissioners of the Autonomy Conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference — full letter available here.)
“…transparency is integral to compliance with fair rules, some reasonable mechanism for disclosure of NIL agreements to institutional compliance officers is necessary…the amount a student-athlete earns from an NIL license should be commensurate with market rates for the NIL activity and not a veiled inducement or pay-for-play.”
“While some NIL-related data has been disclosed through third-party service providers, there is no one entity that has a complete picture of the types of deals that have been made or their parameters.”-National Collegiate Athletic Association
“The ideal law would require disclosure of NIL agreements…”-Sun Belt Conference
ON EMPHASIZING EDUCATION AND THE STUDENT ATHLETE EXPERIENCE-North Coast Athletic Conference
“Preserve the student status – this is about college athletics. Students deserve to compete against other students.”
“The focus of college athletics does still include an academic degree. Therefore, a priority must remain on academics and not purely on athletics as a business.”-United States Collegiate Athletic Association
ON SMALL INSTITUTION PARTICIPATION-North Coast Athletic Conference
“…our students, along with those in Division II and from smaller DIs, as well as the NAIA and junior or Christian college organizations, would benefit from a national plan that supports our students’ economic freedoms fairly…At the same time, many Division III schools simply do not have the same resources to devote to NIL activities that larger, top Division I schools do. This makes us even less able to deal with the fluctuating patchwork of state laws that currently exists…because of this variety in resource levels, a national standard may benefit our students more than most because we’d be operating on an even playing field.”
“[Other federal proposals have included] mandates that will prove potentially disastrous for many of our athletic departments and programs, which are often already strained…at most of our universities, the only sports that produce net revenue are men’s basketball and football. We use these revenues, often supplemented with university funds, to subsidize the additional sports programs our schools sponsor not only to fulfill NCAA required sport sponsorship, but also because outside of tuition and board, we believe intercollegiate sports provide student-athletes with opportunities for development of leadership, job access, teamwork, and other interpersonal skills outside the classroom. This makes any additional mandates and assessments much more significant and problematic to the continued survival of athletic departments across our Conferences.”-Southwestern Athletic Conference
Following an announcement of their intent to work on bipartisan NIL legislation, U.S. Senators Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) solicited feedback first from a broad range of stakeholders. Based on those initial responses, the Senators sent a second letter to more than 30 athletic collectives across the country to hear directly from those groups. Collectives, while independent from the institutions they support, are entities designed to pool funds from private donors to maximize NIL’s impact on the recruitment and retention of college athletes. The Senators will continue to involve as many athletic leaders and representatives as possible as they work to craft NIL legislation that can garner bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.
Both Senators Tuberville and Manchin are former student athletes. Senator Tuberville spent four decades in higher education and coached at institutions across the country.