Payments to College Athletes Now Legal, Still Hidden

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An investigation by NBC affiliate WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., found that trying to track how much college athletes are making in the new era of name, image and likeness deals is no easier than before, when athletes cashed in under the table.

WRAL Investigates found the three big schools in its coverage area — the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke — all have different internal rules for tracking NIL deals. Some require athletes to report deals to the athletic department. Others require reporting deals to their teams, while in some cases, NIL deals don’t need to be reported at all. That’s a problem, according to Frank LoMonte, who heads up the University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, "Everybody’s gotta be on a level playing field."

"College athletics has been in need of greater transparency and greater public scrutiny," said Frank LoMonte, who questions why NIL deals aren’t made public by schools, "If they’re not doing anything wrong, if they’re not using these agreements in an untoward way that they are forbidden from doing, then they ought to invite the public in."

Schools aren’t sharing information about the deals with the public. WRAL Investigates submitted public records requests to Carolina and North Carolina State University for NIL deals. The station's requests were rejected because schools claim the records are protected by the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

UNC responded with, "Your request is for records directly related to a student, which are protected by the family educational rights and privacy act — or FERPA — and not subject to disclosure."

NC State responded that it "…believes this information constitutes an education record under FERPA, since this information is maintained by the university to monitor compliance with North Carolina laws, NCAA regulations and athletic department policies."

"Something that was created by Nike or Coca Cola was never an education record," LoMonte told WRAL, adding that he feels FERPA is being misused, "Nothing about these agreements fits what Congress had in mind when they made education records confidential."

LoMonte argues there’s benefit in letting fans examine these deals. "There’s a real interest in the public in knowing whether name, image and likeness frankly is being used in ways that might effect the honest and integrity of the sport," he said.

The courts will eventually have the final say on whether the records can be made public. Both the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University are being sued by local media outlets after their public records requests were denied for the same reasons Carolina and NC State denied WRAL Investigates, the station reported.

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