On January 10, 2024, the NCAA Division I council unanimously approved new rules pertaining to Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). Per the council, these NIL rules are intended to better address and protect student-athletes with regard to NIL.
The following summarizes the new rules, which go into effect on August 1, 2024:
- Voluntary Registration: The NCAA will establish a voluntary registration process for NIL services providers (marketing agents, financial advisors, attorneys, etc.) to serve as a repository for providers interested in working with student-athletes. This repository will be published and available for student-athletes to use as a resource in their NIL endeavors.
- Disclosure Requirements: Student-athletes will be required to disclose specifics of their NIL engagements over $600 in value to their respective school within 30 days of entering into the agreement. Prospective student-athletes are required to provide the same information to their school within 30 days of enrollment. (It should be noted that a number of NIL state laws already require student-athletes to disclose NIL agreements to their schools.)
- Standardized Contracts: The NCAA and its member schools will work together to establish template NIL contracts and recommended contract terms.
- NIL Education: The NCAA is further developing education to inform student-athletes and other key stakeholders about best practices regarding NIL.
In addition to adopting these rules, the Division I council made a proposal pertaining to school involvement and recruiting as it relates to NIL. The proposal could go into effect as soon as April of 2024. The Division I council’s proposal includes the following:
- Member School Support for Athletes and NIL Deals: The proposal would remove many of the restrictions on the support a school can provide to a student-athlete. Schools still cannot directly compensate student-athletes for the use of their NIL, however, schools will be able to identify potential NIL deals for student-athletes and act as an intermediary or facilitator between the student-athlete and the third-party.
- Provide Clarity of “NIL Entity:” The proposal seeks to define an “NIL entity” as an individual, group of individuals or any other entity organized to support a school’s athletics by compensating student-athletes for NIL activities.
- Member Schools & NIL Entities: The proposal would remove regulations restricting communications between schools and NIL entities (e., collectives) regarding enrolled student-athletes. However, restrictions will remain in place preventing schools from providing financial support to NIL entities.
- Restrictions on Engaging Prospective Student-Athletes: The proposal prohibits a NIL entity from contacting in any way, or providing support of any kind to, a potential student-athlete (e., a high school athlete), a transfer student-athlete (i.e., an individual in the transfer portal) or any individual or party associated with them until he or she signs a letter of intent, participates in summer activities or practices with the team, or enrolls at the school and attends classes.
The status of this proposal is certainly worth monitoring, especially the restrictions on NIL entities engaging with prospective or transfer-student athletes, as this sort of prohibition could be considered an unreasonable restraint of trade under antitrust laws. While, the NCAA does have authority over student-athletes’ eligibility, it does not have authority over unaffiliated NIL entities and how they engage with student-athletes. Moreover, as we have seen in recent years, courts have not been afraid to strike down NCAA policies for being too restrictive under antitrust laws. Should this policy be approved, the particulars of these restrictions will be closely scrutinized.