NIL at 1: Many questions remain for players, schools

The arrival of NIL “has opened the floodgates with players seeking to address several issues," but it is also bringing "further questions about the long-term relationship between players and their schools," according to Jeyarajah & Dodd of Athletes “could benefit massively” from becoming employees as that status comes with numerous legal protections. It “would clear the way for players to form unions and collectively bargain.” That could “lead to revenue sharing, along with overtime pay and regulations covering their health and safety.” But leading officials across the sport “are reluctant to buy into the concept of athletes being defined as employees.” Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff called the idea an "existential threat to college athletics.” Conversely, players being contracted as employees “could create advantages in the realms of player movement and compensatory benefits.” Schools “could offer guaranteed contracts with buyouts or option deals.” They could also require athletes “to stay in college for a set period.” These are all “common features of professional sports contracts.” Jeyarajah & Dodd writes “of course, unintended consequences are sure to pop up as massive public educational institutions must start asking complicated questions about compensation” (, 6/30).

MAJOR ISSUE? In Pittsburgh, Adam Bittner writes enforcement "has been a major issue in Year 1.” Sports attorney Darren Heitner “will be keeping a close eye on that in Year 2.” Specifically, collectives at some schools “have in some cases acted brazenly to flaunt NCAA rules and even state laws, believing the weakened college sports governing body won’t act to impose any penalties.” So Heitner “is curious to see how the NCAA responds -- and how collectives and schools might respond if it does not.” This a movement that “exists to varying degrees at most Division I schools that wants to push the boundaries of NIL and use it to tilt the competitive playing field by pouring money into a given roster” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/30).

NOT PREPARED: FIVE THIRTY EIGHT’s Josh Planos wrote as reports of seven-figure NIL deals for teenagers “have swirled on social media some college athletes were asking journalists on social media how to file their taxes.” Lost in the shuffle of pay-for-play accusations, ”big-pocketed collectives and transfer portal hysteria is the reality that as the NIL era celebrates its first year in the books many college athletes continue to navigate unfamiliar, complicated terrain without inclusive guidance.” Some athletic departments “have invested in third-party companies” such as INFLCR and Opendorse to facilitate NIL services. But a number of Group of Five programs ”might not have that luxury” -- and even the ones with contracts in place “cannot guarantee that athletes are prepared for this moment, which calls for at bare minimum financial literacy and life skills education” (, 6/30).

FOREIGN TERRITORY: In Pittsburgh, Johnny McGonigal writes international athletes "have been left on the outside looking in at the NIL boom.” Nearly 13% of D-I college athletes “are from a foreign country.” The vast majority of those athletes “are at their schools on F-1 student visas.” Those visas allow limited on-campus work and off-campus exceptions, such as internships. McGonigal writes “but getting paid to represent a local car dealership? Nope.” Accepting NIL deals “would likely lead to an international athlete’s visa being terminated” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/30).

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