DeKalb high school basketball coaches joked about how fast Name Image Likeness (NIL) rules were embraced by local policy makers and athletes at DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) recent media day event held at Tucker High School.
NIL rules—which allow amateur athletes to profit and sign deals based on their followings and brand—went into effect in Georgia in October. In an Oct. 31 seminar on NIL, GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines said he doesn’t expect a big change following the rule, but the explosion of NIL in college sports suggests that NIL can ramp up quickly.
At press time, no DeKalb high school athletes had reported any NIL deals to the athletic department — which they’re required to do based on GHSA’s policy. Hines added that only 14 Georgia athletes had reported such deals; three of the reported deals were from junior varsity players who signed a deal with their dads.
However, NIL is in its early stages and several athletes in other counties have signed deals and already debuted promotional content. Terrance Bowen—a student athlete in Cobb County—was recently featured on a billboard advertisement in downtown Atlanta, and Carrollton High School quarterback Julian Lewis had an NIL deal announced by national media outlets.
I believe Georgia is arguably the most talented state in the country for high school sports per capita and has some of the top-ranked student athletes in football and basketball. Georgia is also home to preparatory academies such as Overtime Elite—which houses a group of elite high school basketball players every year—so the rules will be tested.
Lesser-known college athletes have also found a market for NIL deals with small and local businesses. Similar deals could find success in counties such as DeKalb, where high school athletics dominate the local sports scene.
The benefits of NIL are obvious, even if it doesn’t grow to the level it has in college sports. Georgia can now keep its top athletes from transferring to participating states, can convince athletes not to leave early for colleges, and can offer assurance in the form of NIL so athletes can play without as much fear of injury.
Hines said policy makers and GHSA officials have also educated their members about the rules of NIL to make sure no one accidentally violates their eligibility. According to the NIL rules, GHSA athletes can’t do promotional content in school jerseys and can’t use their school names in the content. It also restricts athletes from signing NIL deals based on performance.
The potential downside is still obvious on paper, even if all parties are educated on eligibility rules.
Everyone who keeps up with college sports knows how insane the transfer portal has become, in part due to NIL, and the recruiting changes that took place after NIL went into effect.
Hines said GHSA is keeping its transfer and eligibility rules in place to prevent an open transfer market from happening in Georgia. According to Hines, transfers will take place as usual, but any transfers with NIL deals in place at the new school will not be granted eligibility.
Monitoring NIL in Georgia will be interesting, as we’ve seen transfer and eligibility scandals born from the pursuit of state titles and college scholarships. Things could get even more dicey with money involved. Or, if GHSA’s rules work, the state could be a model for the remaining 20 U.S. states that haven’t passed such laws.
College athletic departments have operated in the grey areas of NIL at times – which has created some of the problems associated with NIL. If Georgia’s policies can avoid those conflicts, then the rule will be a win for everyone involved.