WPIAL administrator: High school NIL deals could lead to manipulation

Tuesday, July 19, 2022 | 8:27 PM

Name, Image and Likeness deals could improve the lives of some high school athletes, but there’s also real concern about manipulation by misguided adults, says the WPIAL’s top administrator.

The discussion about NIL money and its impact on high school athletics increased in recent days after the PIAA board revealed preliminary guidelines for Pennsylvania students hoping to profit from such deals. The policy would let athletes maintain their amateur status while making money from commercial endorsements, social media presence and other self-promotional activities.

“I don’t want to see kids taken advantage of in a negative way,” newly hired WPIAL executive director Scott Seltzer said. “I think that’s a possibility. Any time you have adults manipulating the lives of kids who aren’t their own children, there could be negative things that happen to those kids.”

But Seltzer also acknowledged how drastically the landscape of amateur athletics has changed in the past year. High school administrators can’t ignore the popularity of NIL deals, said Seltzer, who credited the PIAA with taking a proactive approach to the situation.

“I’m glad that they’re trying to get ahead of it,” he said. “Instead of saying, ‘No, it’s not our idea. You can’t do this,’ they’re trying to be leaders in the conversation, which is great. They’ve asked everybody for input, and that’s important, too.”

The PIAA guidelines would prohibit schools, school employees, coaches and booster clubs from their involvement in any NIL deals with students. Also, athletes wouldn’t be allowed to reference the PIAA or their school name or nickname in any NIL-related product.

The PIAA approved the guidelines on a first reading July 13. The policy must pass two more votes before taking effect.

“I don’t ever begrudge anyone of improving their station,” Seltzer said. “We all have a right to do that. … I think (NIL) was done to help those kids who are very talented, but there are so many variables that can happen.”

The WPIAL board discussed the NIL guidelines during its meeting Tuesday in Green Tree. The academic year starts each July, so this was the first official meeting for a number of newly elected or appointed board members.

It also was the first meeting with Seltzer as executive director. The former WPIAL board president and recently retired assistant superintendent at Chartiers Valley was hired July 1.

As executive director, Seltzer said one of his goals is to encourage board members to have meaningful discussions on important topics. He streamlined some routine parts of the monthly meeting to create more time to talk.

“I think we need to discuss more things,” said Seltzer, a longtime board member. “Having time to discuss is always a question.”

Tuesday’s NIL discussion wasn’t meant to reach any conclusion but rather was a chance for WPIAL board members to share their thoughts. Among the comments, some wondered whether highly recruited athletes might someday see five- or six-figure deals from sources connected to colleges. Others questioned if NIL deals would become divisive on a high school team where one star player essentially was getting paid to play.

A big question: Who will enforce these PIAA guidelines?

Still, the consensus of the WPIAL board favored having guidelines over not having them. Seltzer said he hoped the discussion would continue beyond the WPIAL board room.

“What our board members will do,” he said, “is they’ll get those (guidelines) out to their people and say, ‘What do you think about this? What do you think about that?’ I think it builds a better unity among the WPIAL.”

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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