PIAA moves closer to allowing NIL deals for high school athletes

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 | 12:01 AM

Local TV commercials might feature high school football players or a popular basketball star could sell ads on social media.

Those ideas are now closer to reality for Pennsylvania high school athletes once they’re allowed to profit from selling their name, image and likeness under a tentative policy the PIAA revealed Wednesday. The new NIL guidelines would let athletes receive compensation for commercial endorsements, promotional activities and social media presence, among other options.

The PIAA board approved the plan on a first reading at Wednesday’s meeting in State College. The policy still must pass two more readings at future meetings before being enacted, but this was a major step in a new direction.

“The board said we need to get something down (on paper) to let our schools know this is what we’re thinking of, so they can kick the tires, look at it and see if this is the direction we want to go,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. “Nobody wants to catch a senior and their family or community making a mistake.”

If enacted, Pennsylvania will join a growing list of states with similar policies already in place.

The PIAA counted nine states that now have NIL policies for high school athletes with many more in the works. Lombardi said the PIAA looked closely at NIL guidelines from New York, New Jersey and California, as well as proposed legislation in Maryland.

“It’s right in the middle of the road,” Lombardi said of the PIAA plan. “It follows a lot of the lessons they’ve learned.”

The PIAA board meets again in September and October, so the policy could be in place here before winter.

One major concern the policy tries to avoid is letting NIL deals become recruiting tools among high schools. Lombardi said the PIAA staff has talked with instate universities who describe the NCAA version of NIL as “the wild, wild west.”

Under the PIAA guidelines, school employees and anyone affiliated with a member school would be barred from soliciting or negotiating an NIL deal for a student. They also cannot pay an athlete for use of their name, image and likeness. That includes coaches, alumni, booster clubs and administrators.

“The student can get benefit for themselves,” Lombardi said. “It’s not to be enticed.”

The PIAA guidelines say what athletes can do, but they also list what they can’t. Among the restrictions, athletes cannot reference the PIAA, their high school or high school nickname in any NIL-related product. Athletes also would be barred from wearing school uniforms or “school-identifying apparel.”

Certain categories of products and services are off limits. They include adult entertainment products and services, alcohol, controlled substances, gambling and weapons, firearms and ammunition.

Along with borrowing ideas from other states, the PIAA staff also gathered information while attending the summer meeting for the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“Our folks liked a little bit of a blend,” Lombardi said. “We accepted some. We didn’t accept others. I think it’s a good start to get out to our membership and ask: Is this what you want to have for guidelines, because (NIL) is not going away.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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