The prospect of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals for high school athletes in Texas received a lukewarm response from state officials and athletic associations. During the recent Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) convention and coaching school in Houston, Joe Martin, the executive director of THSCA, expressed reservations about introducing NIL legislation for high school athletes.
According to Martin, the association actively fought against a bill proposing NIL for high schoolers introduced by a representative from Southlake. The discussion surrounding high school NIL comes amidst nationwide debates on regulating and overseeing college NIL deals and compensation.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators recently announced a college sports bill to establish national regulations. Simultaneously, Texas Senator Ted Cruz proposed a bill to classify athletes as students rather than NCAA employees, potentially preempting state-level NIL laws.
Growing Trend: High School NIL Policies Across States
Texas does not permit NIL deals for high school athletes, but Martin noted that around 30 states have already adopted such policies. He also pointed out that several states that initially allowed NIL for high schoolers have already revised their rules.
THSCA had initially taken a cautious approach, observing other states' outcomes and experiences before implementing similar regulations. Similarly, the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body for high school athletics in Texas, also adopts a wait-and-see approach.
Dr. Jamey Harrison, the deputy director of UIL, revealed that coaches have expressed strong opinions on the matter. Concerns about the possibility of losing talented players to neighboring states that permit NIL deals for high school athletes have been raised.
Harrison also highlighted the potential division between schools with more resources and those without, as booster clubs could start seeking NIL deals for high school athletes, mirroring what happens at the collegiate level.
While the situation remains uncertain, the discussion around high school NIL is gradually gaining momentum. However, both THSCA and UIL stress the importance of preserving the essence of high school football on Friday nights, which holds a special place in Texas communities.
The recent proposal by the Big 12 Conference to play more football games on Fridays for television exposure has been met with opposition from THSCA. Coaches and officials believe that Friday night football represents an essential tradition in Texas, cherished and supported by local communities, and they aim to protect it from potential disruptions caused by higher-level football events.
As the debate unfolds, Texas state high school leaders are likely to closely monitor the developments in other states and consider the concerns and interests of athletes, coaches, and communities before deciding to introduce NIL deals for high school athletes in the Lone Star State.