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The current state of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) in college sports is lawless and unregulated. There is no definitive framework around what is and is not acceptable. There is no one to enforce the few rules that are in place.
Coaches and administrators across the country have expressed their frustration with the landscape of NIL. Amateur athletics are no longer amateur.
Several SEC coaches, including Nick Saban, traveled to Washington, D.C. to discuss NIL regulations with lawmakers back in June. Congress chose not to take action at the time.
Charlie Baker, who assumed duties as the sixth NCAA president on March 1, expressed his frustration with the current system. He wishes that NIL had been introduced with proper framework when it came to be on July 1, 2021.
All of these problems could have been avoided. Most of them could have been foreseen.
I think it was a big mistake by the NCAA not to do a framework around NIL when they had the opportunity to. And I think there were too many people in college sports who thought no rules would work really well for them. And what everybody’s discovered is no rules, no transparency, no accountability, no framework, doesn’t work well for anybody.— NCAA President Charlie Baker
With the cat already out of the bag, the NCAA is limited in its ability to reel it back in. If things are to change, it needs to come from a government level.
Senators Tommy Tuberville and Joe Manchin are pushing for tangible change with NIL.
The former previously served as head football coach at Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. He is a Republican from Alabama.
The latter enrolled at West Virginia University on a football scholarship in 1965 before an injury ended his career. He is a Democrat from West Virginia.
The bipartisan bill marks the culmination of a yearlong initiative. Both Senators have engaged with a “broad range of stakeholders” in effort to protect student-athletes. They also aim to ensure fairness in competition and compensation while preserving collegiate athletes.
Senator Tuberville is excited about the mutual goal that he shares with Senator Manchin.
Student-athletes should be able to take advantage of NIL promotional activities without impacting their ability to play collegiate sports. But we need to ensure the integrity of our higher education system, remain focused on education, and keep the playing field level. My legislation with Senator Manchin will set basic rules nationwide, protect our student-athletes, and keep NIL activities from ending college sports as we know it.— Senator Tommy Tuberville
Senator Manchin echoed Senator Tuberville’s sentiment toward balance.
As a former college athlete, I know how important sports are to gaining valuable life skills and opening doors of opportunity. However, in recent years, we have faced a rapidly evolving NIL landscape without guidelines to navigate it, which jeopardizes the health of the players and the educational mission of colleges and universities. Our bipartisan legislation strikes a balance between protecting the rights of student-athletes and maintaining the integrity of college sports. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to consider this commonsense legislation as a way to level the playing field in college athletics.— Senator Joe Manchin
The bill is called “the Protecting Athletes, Schools, and Sports Act of 2023.”
It is called the “PASS Act” for short.
Senators Tuberville and Manchin’s NIL legislation focuses on six main points.
Not only does the bill target Name, Image and Likeness reform, it also narrows-in on the transfer portal.
The “common-sense guidelines” include:
- NO PAY FOR PLAY: The bill would ensure an equal playing field by prohibiting NIL from being used as an inducement. The bill would also require boosters and collectives to be affiliated with a school.
- HEALTH & SAFETY: The bill would provide coverage for sports-related injuries for uninsured student-athletes for 8 years following graduation from a 4-year institution. Larger schools would be required to pay for such expenses for a period even after the student leaves the school.
- PROTECTING STUDENT-ATHLETES OFF THE FIELD: The bill would establish additional protections for student-athletes beyond the playing field and beyond the classroom. It would require that student-athletes be educated on their legal and regulatory rights and basic financial literacy. It would preserve the athlete’s initial scholarship commitment for education, regardless of whether the athlete obtained a NIL deal or incurred any injury. In addition, the bill would provide travel for the student-athlete’s immediate family to the athlete’s sporting events.
- OVERSIGHT & TRANSPARENCY: The PASS Act would strengthen oversight and enforcement of NIL activities. Non-student parties involved in NIL activities will be required to register and make their contracts public. It would empower the NCAA to audit compliance and refer potential bad actors to the FTC. It would also establish a uniform, standard contract for all NIL deals.
- CLARIFYING NIL ACTIVITY: It would establish national standards for all NIL activity. The bill would ban endorsement contracts for certain industries – such as drug paraphernalia, dangerous weapons, or gambling – for both student-athletes and schools. It would also ensure that nothing in the bill would impact the employment status of a student-athlete.
- TRANSFERS: The bill will provide stability for teams by moderating the use of the transfer portal. Student-athletes may not enter the portal during their first three years of eligibility without penalty, with some exceptions.
The first five points of emphasis within the bill are largely conventional. The sixth, regarding transfers, may be a point of contention.
The entire 38-page bill can be found HERE.
Three major players in the Southeast are on board with the bill.
Christopher B. Roberts, President of Auburn University, is excited to see where it leads.
Auburn University appreciates the efforts undertaken by Senators Tommy Tuberville and Joe Manchin to create a national framework for NIL that establishes clear rules and addresses the patchwork of conflicting state laws governing collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing to work with these offices, other members of the House and Senate, and the Southeastern Conference as this process continue.— President Christopher B. Roberts of Auburn University
Stuart R. Bell, President of the University of Alabama, shared similar thoughts.
We are appreciative to the Senators for their leadership in developing national standards aimed at protecting student-athletes and preserving the integrity of, and opportunities provided by, intercollegiate athletics. We are grateful for their collaboration and remain optimistic about the efforts to produce effective national legislation— President Stuart R. Bell of the University of Alabama
The Southeastern Conference, which is driving much of the NIL conversation, is also in support.
The Southeastern Conference appreciates the efforts of Senator Tommy Tuberville and Senator Joe Manchin in their work to craft a bill that addresses the opportunity for college athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness, and other issues important to the future of college sports. Senators Tuberville and Manchin have a keen understanding of the need for national standards to preserve the integrity of fair competition at all levels of intercollegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing to engage with members of the House and Senate to refine and work toward effective national legislation that creates and preserves opportunities for all college athletes.— Southeastern Conference
It’s worth noting that all three statements keep the door open to collaborate with other members of Congress. Even beyond Sens. Tuberville and Manchin. All three parties are actively seeking change and hope to find a common ground that serves everybody involved.
This NIL bill is different from legislation introduced last week.
A bipartisan trio of shared a draft of their legislation proposal on Thursday. It goes beyond NIL regulation and would require NCAA schools to be more transparent about finances.
Senators Corey Booker, Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal focused on the following:
- HEALTH CARE: Establish a medical trust fund for sports-related injuries. Athletic departments that generate at least $20 million annually would be required to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses for athletes for two years after they finish playing. Athletic departments that generate at least $50 million annually would have to do the same for four years and provide athletics-related health care coverage while athletes were playing.
- DRAFT ELIGIBILITY: All college athletes can enter drafts for professional leagues without losing their NCAA eligibility if they decide to return to school within seven days of the draft ending.
- SCHOLARSHIP GUARANTEES: Colleges would have to guarantee that athletes would keep their scholarships until they finish their undergraduate degrees as long as they remain in good academic standing and do not transfer.
- EDUCATION: Schools could not attempt to discourage athletes from choosing particular academic majors. They would also be required to provide athletes with at least 15 hours per year of financial literacy and life skills training that could count as college credits.
- TRANSPARENCY: Schools would be required to report annually on their athletics revenue and expenses, how much money their coaches make, how much time athletes spent on their sports, academic outcomes, and the average value and total number of endorsement contracts athletes sign. The bill would make sure that specific contract details for endorsement deals were not made public or subject to public records requests.
Both bills, though different, would have to go through the same process.
Sens. Tuberville and Manchin will need to formally introduce the bill in the Senate. The bill will then be referred to a relevant committee for thorough examination. Experts and stakeholders provide input.
If the committee approves the bill, it will go to the full chamber for debate and voting. If a majority of members support it, the bill will pass in that chamber. Next, it will move to the other chamber for a similar process.
If both chambers agree on the final version, the bill will be sent to the President. The President would then sign it into law or veto it and send it back to Congress. Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers.
That leaves two main questions—
- How much support would Tuberville and Manchin receive?
- How much support would their bill get compared to the other?
- Is this type of legislation urgent?
- Sure, NIL is a big concern in college sports. Yes, concerns are heightened in the South. Tuberville and Manchin are not the only Senators who see the issues. However, there is no clear indication as to how the rest of the Senate or the House feel. Especially with an election year ahead, NIL may not be the primary focus.
In the meantime, Tuberville and Manchin will try to draw as much support as they can.