Nov 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Major college conferences team up on federal NIL legislation

Illustration of a football player reaching to catch a coin

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The most prominent collegiate athletic conferences are coming together to build grassroots support for federal legislation regulating how athletes profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL), according to a Wednesday announcement.

Why it matters: More than 20 states have passed NIL laws in the last two years with varied levels of restrictiveness, leaving athletics programs to scramble to attract talent in the absence of a uniform standard.

  • Adding to the urgency, big-dollar donors and boosters of different schools have formed collectives to raise money to lure top athletes to their school.

Driving the news: More than two dozen conferences, which include the Power Five and HBCUs, are founding members of the Coalition for the Future of College Athletics.

  • The coalition, which includes conferences such as the Big Ten, SEC and ACC, aims to bar the use of NIL in college recruiting to try to keep third-party individuals and groups out of the process as much as possible.
  • The coalition also aims to make sure that men and women college athletes in all sports have equal opportunities to NIL deals.

The big picture: Since the NCAA lifted its long-standing ban against athletes earning money from sponsorship and endorsement deals in 2021, athletes have cashed in on NIL opportunities.

  • Multiple states have passed legislation that allows athletes to begin making money from NIL contracts in high school.
  • The donor-backed collectives make up about 80% of all of the money raised by student athletes, Business Insider notes. The NIL market is worth about $1 billion annually, according to NIL company Opendorse.

What to watch: "This isn't professional sports," said Samantha Azzarelli, a senior vice president at Firehouse Strategies, so the goal of the coalition is to ensure "that everyone's governed by the same rules."

  • "It's really the grassroots support that makes it unique and I think that is really going to help continue to build on the momentum that Congress has already started to do on NIL," Azzarelli said.

Go deeper: Why college football programs are crossing state lines to recruit talent

Go deeper