LHSAA on NILs: We're Educating, Not Regulating

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The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has jumped to the forefront for disseminating information to member institutions about name, image and likeness contacts and is not promoting Louisiana student-athletes getting paid to play, according to LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine.

Speaking during a Zoom meeting Monday with members of the media, including Jimmy Watson of the Shreveport Times, Bonine said he doesn’t expect to see an increase in LHSAA investigations due to student-athletes receiving compensation through NIL deals going forward. 

“We will still have individuals who try to work around the rules, and we will monitor that,” Bonine said. “We have 12 very good compliance officers, all former principals, who do a great job. If there are more issues then that will allow us to learn more of the pitfalls of NILs.”

As reported by Watson, Bonine made the point that it would be against LHSAA rules for a booster at one school to offer financial assistance to an athlete at another school to change schools.

The LHSAA released information Friday that it had entered into an agreement with Eccker Sports to educate the state’s administrators and athletics directors about what NILs entail. The message created a firestorm from the state’s coaches, who were unclear about what it meant for their athletes.

“Education not regulation. We're educating individuals about NILs in our state association. We're not regulating it,” Bonine said. "We're not promoting it. We're not condoning it. We do not have anything in our bylaws that currently prevent a student-athlete from receiving compensation for their name, image or likeness. You all know that some tuition-based schools provide tuition reduction for some student-athletes to attend. That’s been happening for a long time.”

Eccker Sports’ Randy Eccker said his company’s website offers considerable information for administrators, athletics directors, parents and athletes on how to deal with NILs.

“There has been a lot of fear, doubt and uncertainty in the high school market in regard to NILs,” Eccker said. “Education is the best protection.”

Bonine also said the NILs are not solely for athletes. Sponsorships are available for band members, thespians and other students involved in extracurricular activities. 

The danger for athletes is signing contracts without knowing what the contract entrails. Bonine said he’s heard of high school athletes who have signed deals that can’t be replaced by a better deal when they move on to the collegiate level. 

“And if a car dealership gives a student a car – What’s the lease on that vehicle â€“ $300 to $400 per month?” Bonine asked. “After two months, the student has to receive a 1099 because the value has passed $600. Are they putting aside the money to pay the taxes on that gift? Most high school kids I know wouldn’t. Those are the kinds of pitfalls we are trying to avoid.”

While a high school student can receive compensation for name, image or likeness per the current LHSAA bylaws, he or she could run into trouble for receiving money to participate in an athletic event, the Times' Watson reported.

“Someone had to address the elephant in the room,” Bonine said. “We couldn’t just stick our heads in the sand and hope it would go away.”

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