NIL Deals Sweeping the SEC Could Lead to a Slippery Slope

Photo of Brianna E. Burns
Brianna E. Burns
Associate, Corporate Department
Published: McLane Middleton
June 6, 2023

Lawmakers in some of the states housing South Eastern Conference (SEC) schools are beginning to adopt laws intended to give schools more leeway with name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals while prohibiting enforcement by the National College Athletic Association (NCAA). Some examples of actions allowed by state laws include:

  • Missouri – a high school athlete who signs with an in-state college, such as the University of Missouri, can begin earning compensation for their name, image and likeness before enrolling at the school
  • Texas – Texas A&M donors will earn priority points through the school’s fundraising arm for donations that eventually funnel to athletes
  • Arkansas – college athletes have been paid for charity appearances through a nonprofit organization that is owned by the school’s fundraising foundation

In other SEC states, such as Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, these actions would be in violation of the NCAA rules and its state law.

The discrepancies in laws from state to state not only challenge the NCAA and SEC governance of NIL rules, they also cause potential advantages in competition between the schools. If an SEC school in Arkansas can find more ways to pay student athletes than those SEC schools in Alabama, student athletes may consider that fact when choosing where to go to college. In addition, if the rules surrounding NIL continue in this direction, this could lead to a slippery slope which may end up with schools being able to pay student athletes directly. The rules surrounding NIL have already seen more and more relaxation – from no school involvement, to permitting school officials to direct donations to collectives, and now state laws allowing for the most school involvement yet. As states and schools push the envelope, it could become increasingly more difficult for the NCAA and regional divisions, such as the SEC, to enforce control over NIL deals.