Star high school athletes in Virginia can score NIL deals, but VHSL is setting limits

Posted at 3:48 PM, May 03, 2023

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The Virginia High School League (VHSL) has introduced guidelines to help their member schools navigate the expanding field of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) opportunities now available to high school and college athletes.

The NCAA ruled in favor of NIL deals for it’s athletes last year. It allows athletes to profit from their personalities and abilities while still maintaining their amateur status. NIL can include product endorsements, personal appearances, autographs, and social media influences.

“NIL is already here” said John W. “Billy” Haun, the VHSL’s executive director. “We have high school students who have already been offered NIL deals. We are trying to provide some guidance to our student-athletes and their parents and coaches that will help keep students eligible and not violate our current policies on being an amateur.”

Some of the restrictions on NIL activity include:

  • Students may not use any school name, mascot or logo in their appearances
  • Students cannot endorse any adult themed material, tobacco or vaping products, casinos, guns or illegal drugs
  • Students must notify their school principal or athletic director within 72 hours of any NIL deal agreement

There is also a prohibition on schools using NIL opportunities to lure athletes to their programs. Also, schools are prohibited from organizing any “collectives”, groups specifically created to cultivate NIL opportunities. School staff are also prohibited from counseling or offering any advice to student-athletes about any prospective NIL opportunities unless they are the student-athlete's parent.
Students may wear clothing or other gear with sponsored logos to class (pursuant to individual school dress codes) but they may not wear such clothing to any athletic event.

At least 28 states, including several bordering Virginia, already have similar guidelines in place. Haun mentioned those in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee and Kentucky as serving as models for what the VHSL has adopted.

Any violation of the guidelines would result in the loss of eligibility for the student. Further punishment or restrictions would depend on the individual case. The VHSL is relying, for now, on the schools to self-report any violations.

Haun was not familiar with more than a couple of current NIL deals for Virginia students. Industry experts predict that fewer than 10% of high school athletes nationwide will ever have an NIL opportunity.

The VHSL governs more than 300 public high schools in Virginia.