Emmert to Schools: NIL Opportunities for All by July

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NCAA president Mark Emmert emailed members last week with an update on name, image and likeness legislation — and to urge schools to create opportunities for student-athletes by July.

“By July, all our athletes should be provided NIL opportunities regardless of the state they happen to live in,” Emmert wrote. “We must act to ensure that fair opportunities, consistent with our values, are provided to all student-athletes.”

The memo, which was posted in full by The Associated Press’ Ralph D. Russo, says that the NCAA has been working since October 2019 to allow college student-athletes to be compensated for their NIL. NCAA athletes have traditionally lost eligibility for receiving compensation.

Debated for years, updated NIL legislation began to take shape when California passed an athlete compensation bill in 2019. Many states followed suit, and NIL laws in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Tennessee are scheduled to go into effect July 1

“It is therefore essential we now enact rules before the end of the month,” Emmert wrote ahead of the first laws becoming reality. “These updates rules are needed to minimize conflicts among athletes’ NIL opportunities across all the states and to reinforce our commitment to the principles of college athletics. Similarly, we have collectively made a promise to Congress, to our campuses, and most importantly, to our student-athletes that we would do so. Certainly, we will continue to work with Congress to encourage them to create a single, national law around NIL, but this will not happen by July. Nor does it relieve us of the need for NCAA rule changes.”

The NCAA Division-I Council could act on NIL proposals during its meeting Tuesday and Wednesday. The proposal was originally expected to be voted on in January, but it was put on hold due to potential antitrust law violations.

“Our current rules, as you know, completely prohibit NIL activities and therefore are in conflict with state NIL laws,” Emmert wrote. “Schools and athletes following the NIL provisions of their state laws should not be concerned about eligibility issues. Nor should student-athletes in states without NIL laws be deprived of the opportunity to engage in appropriate NIL activities. We must not allow such obvious inequity to occur. We need to pass new rules.”

Emmert said that if NCAA rule changes aren’t in place by July, he will work with governance bodies to develop temporary policies.

ESPN’s Dan Murphy reported that conference commissioners are divided on the best way to move forward with NIL. The SEC’s Greg Sankey, ACC’s Jim Phillips and Pac-12’s Larry Scott are reportedly among the commissioners urging a minimalist approach to regulating the NIL marketplace.

A letter obtained by ESPN says that previous NIL proposals will lead to "inevitable confusion, uncertainty and likely litigation against the NCAA and its member conferences and institutions."

The group of commissioners’ new proposal directs schools to follow their states NIL laws. In states where NIL laws aren’t going into effect this summer, each school would be responsible for developing and publishing its own policies for student-athlete NIL opportunities. The proposal suggests that the only guidance to those schools would be preventing school employees or boosters from paying athletes, and preventing payments in exchange for athletic performance or recruiting inducement.

Murphy wrote that, “Even if the NCAA adopted the original proposed changes, some state laws mandate fewer restrictions on athletes. Other small inconsistencies between the state laws make it impossible to create one set of rules that applies to all NCAA athletes without running into conflicts with at least some states.”

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