After PIAA approves NIL policy, Laurel Highlands’ Rodney Gallagher quickly adds 1st deal

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Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | 7:17 PM


MECHANICSBURG — The vote was only a couple of hours old when Laurel Highlands senior Rodney Gallagher announced the first NIL deal for a PIAA athlete.

Pennsylvania high school students can maintain their amateur status and accept money for use of their name, image and likeness under a groundbreaking policy approved Wednesday by the PIAA. The board voted 25-4 in favor of the new guidelines, which take effect immediately and let athletes receive compensation for commercial endorsements, product advertisement, promotional activities and social media presence.

“It’s a blessing … to earn a couple of dollars off building their own brand,” said Gallagher’s father, Rodney II, who confirmed his son’s NIL deal. “With him working so hard to become such a good athlete and such a good young man, these are the perks that are coming along with that.”

The PIAA board had worked since July to craft the NIL policy, believing the guidelines will benefit students by making clear what’s allowed and what’s not.

“The board should be proud of what they did to help kids,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. “It mirrors 18 to 20 other states that have found success, and I think it really helps protect our student and their families.”

Within a few hours of the PIAA vote, Gallagher announced his NIL deal to his 99,000 followers on Instagram. The two-sport standout and West Virginia football commit has a deal with The Pavement Group, a paving contractor founded by a Laurel Highlands graduate. Gallagher II declined to share financial details about the NIL deal, but said his son would be working within the community.

In an advertisement tweet announcing his partnership, Rodney Gallagher III said the paving company “blessed me with an opportunity to help lead their philanthropic efforts by donating to nonprofit missions in Fayette County, the community that’s uplifted me from the start.”

His father said they’ll be cautious with NIL opportunities.

“We have an attorney that works with us,” he said, “and a marketing director that works with us as well to sift through the contracts to make sure everything is on the up and up.”

Gallagher’s social media accounts make no mention of the high school he attends, describing him only as an All-American athlete and WVU football commit. The PIAA guidelines attempt to insulate any NIL deal from interscholastic athletics by prohibiting students from wearing school-identifying apparel such as uniforms or displaying a team logo in any NIL-related work. Students cannot reference the PIAA, a PIAA member school or its nickname.

The PIAA also prohibits wearing any NIL-affiliated logo, insignia or identifying mark during team or school activities.

There are seven categories of off-limit products or services, including adult entertainment, alcohol, casinos and gambling, tobacco and e-cigarettes, weapons and ammunition, prescription drugs and controlled substances.

The guidelines also restrict schools and school-affiliated personnel from potentially recruiting athletes through NIL deals. That list includes “booster clubs, coaches, collectives, administrators and alumni.”

Now that NIL deals are permitted, PIAA’s top administrator shared a word of caution for any high school athlete offered money for use of their name, image or likeness.

“I would say, before you go down this road, sit down with someone who is well-educated and versed in NIL,” said Lombardi, who was working to secure a relationship with Philadelphia-based Team Advance as a PIAA-endorsed source for NIL education.

The four no votes all came from the WPIAL.

WPIAL president Dave McBain said the league was concerned with the management of NIL deals and the unknown expectations for athletic departments and schools. A student entering into an NIL deal must notify the school’s athletic director or principal within 72 hours.

WPIAL athletic directors were surveyed about the NIL policy during a recent meeting held at Acrisure Stadium.

“It was almost unanimous (against the NIL policy) with I think one member voting in favor,” McBain said. “That sent a strong message to our representatives today to pass on the message that we’re not in favor of this.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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