Butcher discusses NCAA’s lack of NIL clarity in Inside Higher Ed article

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When the NCAA adopted an interim name, image and likeness (NIL) policy in June 2021, a world of opportunities opened up for college athletes in the NCAA, but those opportunities also formed in a confusing patchwork landscape of state laws and college policies. The NIL reforms allow college athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image, and/or likeness without losing eligibility to play college sports in the NCAA, but the NCAA has not provided clear guidance for what deals may cross the line into prohibited conduct, such as recruitment inducements or pay-for-play. In an Inside Higher Ed article, Bricker higher education attorney Erin Butcher explains the NCAA’s lack of clarity on NIL prohibited conduct creates confusion over allowable NIL contracts, especially NIL deals for teams or groups of student athletes at one college or university.

For example, Brigham Young University (BYU)’s agreement with a protein bar company provides $1,000 for scholarship football players and a stipend for non-scholarship football players that will “cover the cost of their tuition for at least one year.” Butcher asks, “[w]here does a group deal cross the line from a permissible NIL deal to being some sort of improper recruiting inducement or pay for play?” Mark Emmert, NCAA president, announced in December 2021 that “the organization was investigating ‘a number’ of schools for possible NIL violations”; media coverage indicates “the NCAA has expressed interest” in BYU’s whole-team deal. Butcher said, “I think the NCAA may be interested in whether this is going to give a school an advantage over other schools. Are people going to want to come to a school because they’re getting paid to participate when they could go to a different school and not have that deal?”

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