Power Five Conference Commissioners Urge Congress to Enact NIL Reforms

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IISeptember 1, 2022

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04: Greg Sankey, SEC Commissioner before the SEC Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on December 04, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Power Five conference commissioners have sent a letter to Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—who are leading a drive to regulate the name, image and likeness process (NIL)—that offers their perspective and chief concerns on the matter.

The commissioners' letter, which was obtained by Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger, acknowledges the senators' request for their point of view and thanks them for their efforts thus far in striving for NIL regulation.

The group also acknowledged students' rights to "engage" in the "market-based activity" but noted chief concerns on the matter, specifically with donors and collectives.

The letter reads in part:

"Unfortunately, problems have emerged where it appears boosters are inducing high school and potential transfer student-athletes to attend their favored universities with payments inaccurately labeled as NIL licenses, with no connection to the value of any endorsement or NIL activity. This kind of inducement was not what anyone had in mind when NIL was created, and federal legislation sponsored by members of both parties sought to prohibit the use of NIL as a recruiting inducement."

The letter calls for "six key pillars" that the commissioners claim are "integral to a fair, enforceable, federal network for NIL." Dellenger summarized them as follows:

"They include (1) having a national standard allowing all athletes to earn compensation from third parties; (2) prohibiting pay-for-play as well as outlawing booster involvement in recruiting; (3) providing protections for athletes, including assurances that agents 'are subject to meaningful regulation'; (4) banning third parties or agents from obtaining 'long term rights' of an athlete's NIL; (5) requiring deals to commensurate with market rates for NIL activity; and (6) requiring athletes to disclose NIL deals to their university."

Collectives are at the forefront of controversy and concerns regarding NIL. Pete Nakos of On3 provided an explanation for what they are and the purposes they serve:

"Collectives, which are independent of a university, can serve a variety of purposes. Most often, they pool funds from boosters and businesses, help facilitate NIL deals for athletes and also create their own ways for athletes to monetize their brands."

Some collectives have drawn the ire of the universities they support. The "Student Body Right" collective was formed to support USC student-athletes against the wishes of USC. Alabama football head coach Nick Saban has notably criticized collectives as well.

The NCAA adopted an interim NIL policy on July 1, 2021. NIL platform Opendorse (h/t Erica Hunzinger of the Associated Press) estimated that student-athletes earned a total of $917 million in the first year since the policy was instituted.