Ohio high schools vote no on allowing name, image and likeness rights to athletes

·4 min read
"We want the schools to be the ones to make that determination," OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said of the possibility that lawmakers will now introduce legislation allowing high school athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.
"We want the schools to be the ones to make that determination," OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said of the possibility that lawmakers will now introduce legislation allowing high school athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

Over the past year, regulations allowing athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses have spread across the country, beginning at the college level before trickling down to high schools.

Nine states allow high school athletes to take advantage of their NIL, but Ohio won't join them — at least, not yet.

The member schools of the Ohio High School Athletic Association voted on NIL rights as part of their annual referendum process from May 1-16, and Tuesday morning the OHSAA announced that the NIL measure did not pass.

Some local athletics directors, however, believe it will eventually happen.

"Initially, my thought is that the result doesn’t surprise me. But it’s just a matter of time ... after legal battles and everything that (NIL is) probably going to (pass)," Dublin Coffman athletics director Duane Sheldon said.

"I do think we will have to adapt, just as the NCAA has done, so we can work with it when it does arrive," said Olentangy Berlin athletics director John Betz.

While the matter has been tabled for now, Columbus Academy athletics director Jason Singleton, who was the captain of the Buckeyes' 1999 NCAA Final Four squad, is grateful for the pause.

"The world is changing, sports are changing and we just have to adapt," he said. "This gives us time to plan and to prepare and to be ready. When it does pass, everyone should have policies in place. Eventually, I'm sure it will pass. But right now, it was moving so fast, I don't think schools were ready and prepared for it."

NIL proposal was rejected by 538 schools

A simple majority of the 817 schools — 409 yes votes — was required to pass, and only 254 schools voted in favor. It was rejected by 538 schools.

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Alaska, Colorado, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Utah allow their high school athletes to make money from their NIL without compromising their amateur status.

Why Ohio schools voted no to the NIL proposal

The main feedback OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute said he received from the member schools since introducing the NIL proposal was they felt Ohio was moving more quickly than necessary on what's still an emerging issue at the high school level.

As Sheldon put it: "Too many people were uncomfortable with the situation. There were too many unanswered questions."

The OHSAA said throughout the process that its goal was to let schools decide if they wanted to allow NIL, rather than have the decision made by lawmakers.

Though Ute said the OHSAA hasn't had conversations with any lawmakers, he's prepared for the possibility.

"That’s the way of the world," Ute said. "That’s what happens. I haven’t had one lawmaker reach out to me or our organization for discussion on this, but we also know that’s how some things come about."

Local athletics directors believe that Executive Director Doug Ute and the Ohio High School Athletics Association will eventually adopt rules that allow student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.
Local athletics directors believe that Executive Director Doug Ute and the Ohio High School Athletics Association will eventually adopt rules that allow student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

What OHSAA expects to come next with NIL

In previous years, some issues that were rejected in one referendum process have been approved in the next cycle — the 2015 approval of competitive balance, after it was rejected in 2014, is one recent example.

This year's NIL bylaw language was modeled after a similar rule that was passed by the New York association and carried several restrictions.

Athletes would not have been allowed to use the name, logo or mascot of their school or the OHSAA. They couldn't participate in any marketing or endorsement activities, or display a sponsor's product, during official team activities. The contracts could only involve an individual athlete and couldn't provide money or materials directly to a team or school. Athletes would have to refrain from engaging in activities promoting alcohol, casinos, tobacco, gambling or drug use. Lastly, athletes would have been required to disclose their contracts to their schools — something that also raised issues for athletic directors, who had concerns that their staffs would have been overwhelmed by additional responsibilities relating to NIL.

It's possible that the NIL issue will return to the referendum ballot next year with adjusted language, after a year of conversation between the OHSAA and the schools. It's also possible that the issue will hit the courts or the Statehouse before then, which Ute would prefer to avoid.

"If NIL is going to enter the Ohio interscholastic landscape, we want the schools to be the ones to make that determination," Ute said in a statement. "Whatever we do moving forward, it will include discussion on this issue with our school administrators, board of directors, staff and leaders of other state high school athletic associations."

bjohnson@dispatch.com

@baileyajohnson_

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio rejects proposal to allow NIL for high school athletes