New Virginia law allows state colleges and universities to directly pay athletes through NIL deals

Posted at 5:19 PM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 17:19:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's governor signed a law Thursday that allows the state's colleges and universities to directly pay athletes through name, image and likeness deals.

The law signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin bypasses an NCAA rule that prevents schools from paying athletes under NIL guidelines. It takes effect on July 1.

NIL rules, enacted in 2021, allow college athletes to agree to deals with local and national businesses that compensate them for advertising or personal appearances. At some schools, it has led to players being granted brand new trucks to drive throughout the season — for example — or other amenities that are seen by many as giving the school a recruiting advantage.

At a bill signing ceremony Thursday, Youngkin was surrounded by head coaches, athletic directors, and even mascots from UVA, Virginia Tech, JMU, VCU, Norfolk State, and ODU.

The Governor thanked the lawmakers and athletic departments for their work crafting the legislation.

“It’s very important to set the rules and make sure Virginia is doing this," Youngkin said, repeatedly adding the new law will help Virginia schools compete with other states for talent.

The NIL space has been a wild west of sorts for athletic departments across the country.

Quasi-school related — but not sanctioned — collective groups have been working to ink deals with college athletes since 2021, in some cases worth millions of dollars over the player's years of NCAA eligibility.

The new Virginia law prevents the NCAA or a school's conference from punishing the athletic department for NIL involvement.

Carla Williams, the athletic director at UVA, and Whit Babcock, the AD at Virginia Tech, both said the legislation helps clarify the role institutions can play, both in negotiating deals for athletes and making sure they are educated on the complexity of contractual obligations when significant money is promised.

"It’s been difficult. It’s been a challenge trying to navigate through NIL in this new era. We think this new law will be very helpful for us to make sure our student-athletes can benefit," Williams said.

“It is a chaotic and dynamic space, and when schools can be more coordinated, we feel like it's definitely an asset and can be and the right way to go," Babcock said.

The new NIL does set some parameters for the institutions. Schools cannot use any funds garnered in from student fees — like tuition — to pay athletes.

Plus, any NIL policy for each institution would need approval by their governing body or Board of Visitors.

The law allows schools to work alongside collectives or handle NIL deals for athletes through an internal group, but both Wiliams and Babcock said at this point UVA and Virginia Tech will continue to work with existing collectives at each school.

Virginia Tech head football coach Brent Pry said the law will allow their staff to bolster the narrative about the benefit of playing and learning at Tech.

"[NIL is involved in} just about every conversation [with recruits]. We don’t want it to be the only reason somebody chooses Virginia Tech, but it’s going to be important," Pry said when asked about how often recruits and their families ask about NIL opportunities. "Right now, there’s just a bunch of competition: conference realignment, NIL, transfer portal. This is a feather in our cap, and we can put our best foot forward.”

Most college athletes do not receive the multi-million dollar NIL deals that grab headlines. But before NIL became a reality, NCAA rules and the demands of big-time college sports made it difficult for athletes to keep a job and help support themselves or their families financially, said UVA head football coach Tony Elliot.

“They all have dreams and aspirations within their perspective sport, but also, the big picture in their life. This will allow us now to make sure the total package, the holistic experience, is addressed," Elliot said. "Not every student-athlete comes from the same situation. If this is an opportunity for them to be able to improve their quality of life and the quality of life for their families, then I’m all for it.”

"It just gives us an opportunity to have a conversation without feeling like you’re breaking a rule or crossing a line you’re not supposed to cross. It allows us to be able to speak openly," Elliot said.

With Youngkin's signature, the law takes effect in July. You can review the legislation here.

Tell CBS 6 what you think of the state of college sports and the NIL.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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