BY JESSE SMITHEY
They didn’t call it NIL money.
But it’s NIL money.
The TSSAA Legislative Council unanimously approved, 12-0, a change to Article II, Section 18 — which is the association’s amateur rule — at a meeting in Murfreesboro on Thursday.
Effective immediately, student-athletes from TSSAA member schools can now receive payment for things like instructional services they render, such as lessons, and not be in violation of the TSSAA’s Amateur Rule.
The new language in the amended rule never called it NIL (Name, Image, Likeness), but that’s exactly what it is.
There are parameters in place, though.
“Students would be permitted to receive payment for activities not related to performance provided that they are carried out in a manner that does not suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of their school,” the TSSAA press release stated.
“The student’s activities for which they are compensated may not include an image or likeness of the student in a uniform, or other clothing or gear depicting the name or logo of the TSSAA member school the student is attending or has attended.”
Translation: student-athletes can make money for modeling, selling their own merchandise, lessons, sponsorships and the like, so as long as they aren’t using the TSSAA member school that they attend, their TSSAA awards/accomplishments won, championships won, school jerseys, etc… in the NIL space.
More than 20 states’ high school associations, now, have altered their bylaws to allow NIL for high school athletes.
Mark Reeves, the new TSSAA executive director, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press’ Stephen Hargis that “it was more than likely that litigation would’ve come into play, potentially,” if the TSSAA weren’t pro-active on this topic and start to allow NIL, as other premier athletes in other states have taken to the legal system to gain NIL compensation. (Read the Times Free Press’ full comments from Reeves HERE).
This isn’t something the TSSAA went rogue on and instituted on it own, however.
They broached the topic with school administrators from around Tennessee during their fall regional meetings, and roughly 90 percent of the school administrators were in favor of ratifying this alteration to the amateur rule, per reports from The Tennessean.
5Star Preps interviewed Reeves in August about the possible implementation of NIL into Tennessee high school athletics and how it would be policed and monitored should the motion be approved.
“It’s ultimately the member schools’ responsibilities to follow the rules that they signed up for on their membership contracts and that they agreed to abide by. We get involved when there are violations of those rules that are brought to our attention by other member schools,” Reeves said in mid-August. “We dealt with one last week. A member school principal contacted us and said, ‘Hey, we got these text messages and it looks like this coach at another school was sending text messages to this player or player’s mom.’ Sure enough, we get the other school to investigate, and yep, they confirm it. There have been times when we have investigated when we’ve gotten enough information. We’ve conducted our own investigations.
“The organization as a whole was founded on, and still relies on, the membership and the administration of the schools to be the ones who are policing it and making sure these rules are followed. But we are there as an enforcement arm when those rules aren’t followed. However, we have to be made aware of it. We’re not listening into what people are speculating on Twitter or CoachT (message boards). We’re listening to our member schools when they call us and say, ‘Hey, we got this.'”