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NCAA Issues NIL Edict: Play by Our Rules, Not State Laws

July 17, 2023

A new era of strict enforcement is on the horizon as the NCAA takes a firm stand against Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) violations spanning schools nationwide. Stan Wilcox, the NCAA’s Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, recently issued a memo to schools, making it clear that any violation of NCAA rules, regardless of what state laws permit, will face consequences.

The memo arrives at a time when several states within the Southeastern Conference have either implemented or are establishing laws that allow student-athletes to receive NIL compensation through their schools’ fundraising entities. The NCAA’s response signals a significant shift in the enforcement landscape, setting the stage for potential consequences in the realm of collegiate athletics.

The NCAA’s strict enforcement of its rules places schools in the crossfire between NCAA policies and state laws, with 32 states having already introduced their own NIL regulations for public education institutions. Many of these state laws contain provisions that curtail the NCAA’s authority to enforce its own NIL policy. However, the NCAA’s memo makes a resolute statement, asserting that voluntary membership in the organization renders state laws irrelevant if they conflict with its membership guidelines. The memo also emphasizes that boosters must not engage with recruits to discuss potential NIL opportunities during the recruiting process.

In the evolving era of college athletics, the NCAA is continuing to prioritize enforcement of its bylaws, and Wilcox’s memo further emphasizes that the NCAA will issue penalties to entities that violate its rules, regardless of state laws. As schools nationwide grapple with the complexities of NIL regulations, the discordance between state laws and NCAA guidelines remains uncertain. Varnum LLP will continue to monitor these developments.

2023 summer associate Dilan Kama contributed to this advisory. Dilan is currently a student at Wayne State University Law School.

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