The NCAA Division I Board recently approved clarifications regarding the NCAA's interim name, image, and likeness (NIL) policy. In July of 2021, the NCAA was forced to amend their rules to allow college athletes to profit from the commercial use of their name, image, and likeness. Accordingly, the NCAA adopted an interim NIL policy. The interim policy is extremely vague and left much room for questions and varying degrees of interpretation. Accordingly, the NCAA issued some points of clarification to its interim NIL policy.
However, the previously released clarifications did not address issues regarding current college athletes. The clarifications focused on issues related to prospective college athletes. For example, in May of this year the NCAA released guidance clarifying that coaches and staff could not organize, facilitate, or arrange any meetings between boosters and prospective college athletes. Coaches and staff also cannot be involved in any communication between a prospective college athlete and a booster or NIL entity.
Until the newly released clarifications, there was very little guidance on NIL issues as it relates to current college athletes. The new guidance provides some clarity on the degree to which a school can be involved with a current college athlete’s NIL activities. However, before diving into the DI NIL Policy clarifications, let’s take a brief look at the initial Interim NIL policy.
The NCAA's Interim NIL Policy
In a nutshell, the interim NIL policy gave college athletes the ability to engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Athletes who attend a college or university in a state without a NIL law can also engage in NIL activities without violating any NCAA rules. However, such athletes may be subject to their respective school’s NIL policy; if such policy exist. The NCAA’s interim NIL policy also stated that college athletes could use a professional service provider, such as an agent or attorney, for assistance with NIL activities.
Additionally, the policy suggested that athletes report NIL activities in a manner consistent with the requirements of their respective state law or school policy. Additionally, the interim NIL policy prohibited athletes from receiving compensation for play (“pay-for-play”) and prohibited the use of NIL as an improper inducement. Schools were also prohibited from telling college athletes how to use their NIL compensation.
While the interim NIL policy states that college athletes are able to engage in NIL activities without jeopardizing their collegiate eligibility, the policy did not state much else. Accordingly, it left many questions about how much of a role a university or college can play in assisting their athletes with their NIL goals. It is for this reason, that the NCAA Division I Board released the following clarifications on the role of colleges and universities in their athletes NIL activities.
NCAA DI NIL Policy Clarifications
According to the NCAA Division I Board’s latest guidance, a college or university may provide educational opportunities for their athletes. Educational opportunties include providing classes and information on financial literacy, tax, entrepreneurship, and social media. The school may also make these educational resources available to boosters, prospective college athletes, and to an NIL entity such as a NIL Collective.
Additionally, colleges and universities can request that NIL entities inform college athletes about NIL opportunities. Similarly, schools can inform college athletes about various NIL opportunities and introduce college athletes to representatives of a NIL entity. Colleges and universities can provide a place for their athletes to meet with an NIL entity. However, a school cannot communicate with a NIL entity regarding a college athlete’s specific request for NIL compensation.
Moreover, colleges can promote their athletes' NIL activities as long as the promotion does not cost the school anything. Colleges can also purchase items related to a college athlete’s NIL for the same rate that it is available to the general public. Furthermore, a college or university may provide services such as tax preparation and contract review to their athletes as long as such resources are available too all students. Similarly, a college or university may make equipment such as cameras, graphics software, and computers available to college athletes as long the equipment is available to all other students.
While a school may assit its college athletes in many ways, there are some ways that schools may not assit. For example, college athletes are prohibited from promoting their NIL activities while “on call for required athletically related activities such as practice, pre and post game activities, or a press conference". Colleges cannot enter any revenue sharing agreement with college athletes. College athletes may not receive direct nor indirect compensation for promoting the athletics competition they participate in.
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