The Drake Group, an advocacy group that works in the college athletics space, is requesting the U.S. Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights look into whether NIL deals, which the group says favor men, are in violation of Title IX.
According to a statement on the group's website, the The Drake Group believes that the current NIL chaos can be relieved by DOE/OCR clearly and precisely warning institutions, their conferences, and national governance organizations of their obligations under existing Title IX requirements, explaining how those requirements apply to new NIL-related activities, and warning that actions by “NIL booster collectives” will be attributed to the universities when appropriate.
The Drake Group has written to the Secretary of Education request that the Office for Civil Rights take such action.
"We do not write to suggest that OCR stem this flow of cash to college athletes, but rather to alert OCR that this cash is, with the blessing and/or cooperation of the 1000+ universities in the NCAA, flowing predominantly to men," the letter states. "Such inequitable financial aid, treatment and benefits provided to men are a violation of Title IX. OCR must provide guidance to the schools that this is improper and will be pursued with enforcement proceedings as necessary."
The letter alleges that school are either complicit in the inequities of NIL or are confused about their obligations to ensure opportunities for women under Title IX.
"In either case, OCR guidance is badly needed, and quickly," the letter states. "The schools have never been enthusiastic about gender equality in sports, having unsuccessfully attempted to exempt revenue-producing sports like football from Title IX, and having dragged its feet for decades on gender equality. The “Wild West” scene we see today, involving compensation for athletes’ names, images, and likenesses, has simply provided the schools an opportunity to feign ignorance or confusion as to the implications for women athletes. OCR should eliminate that ignorance and clarify any confusion. To be clear, we do not seek any statutory or regulatory amendments. The activities of many of the schools working hand in hand with boosters violate Title IX. We seek only that OCR promulgate clear guidance as to what does, or does not, implicate Title IX concerns in the new NIL space."
The group laments that NIL has ushered in an era of booster collectives that can essentially pay to bring in players in very much the same way professional sports teams negotiate for athletes.
"These payments actually were incentives for the athlete to matriculate at, transfer to, or stay at a particular university," the letter explains. "Individual boosters or what became called “collectives” of boosters raised money and dangled it in front of athletes to assure that those athletes would play at their school, rather than another. Consider a few illustrations of how this system is currently operating."
The letter offers a number of examples of these kinds of deals, however all examples given are geared towards men's sports.