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NCAA working to give colleges a more hands-on role in NIL deals for athletes

NCAA president Charlie Baker is working to give colleges more of a role in NIL.

Colleges are growing closer to having more of a hands-on role in arranging name, image and likeness (NIL) deals for their athletes than ever before.

The NCAA’s NIL working group has introduced a proposal that permits schools to provide “assistance and services” to their athletes in pursuit of NIL opportunities, including identifying opportunities for them as well as even facilitating deals with third parties.

The working group is recommending that the NCAA Division I Council adopt the proposal as expedited legislation at its meeting later this month, according to a memo sent to members on Monday and obtained by Yahoo Sports. The proposal was publicized in January but has since been refined to focus specifically on a school’s involvement in arranging NIL deals.

The proposal is on a parallel track and interconnected with the NIL “protections” legislation that the council adopted in January. That legislation creates (1) a voluntary registration process for NIL professional service providers such as agents and advisors; (2) a disclosure database of athlete NIL deals of $600 or more; and (3) standardized NIL contracts as well as a comprehensive educational plan.

The NCAA awarded the management of the agent registry, disclosure database and educational plan to Teamworks, sources told Yahoo Sports. Teamworks is a technology platform and app already widely used within many college athletic departments. The deal between the NCAA and Teamworks has not been finalized.

According to the working group’s proposed legislation, as an incentive for athletes to disclose their deals, schools may only provide assistance to those athletes who have disclosed their contracts, according to the memo.

This latest clarification of the NCAA’s NIL policy brings closer schools and third-party NIL entities, such as booster-led collectives. The relationship between the two — school and collective — has been one of the many murky issues in the NIL space.

Since NIL’s inception in July 2021, NCAA committees have adopted new guidance and legislation that lifts prohibitions on a school’s role in NIL, paving the way for what many administrators believe is the future: NIL operated from within school athletic departments, more commonly referred to as “in-house NIL.”

As part of NCAA president Charlie Baker’s Project DI plan, the NCAA was on the way to fully granting institutions the ability to both strike NIL deals with their own athletes and share revenue with them via a trust. The first portion of that plan — direct NIL pay from schools — was expected to be further explored by a subcommittee of the DI Council with a timeline of adoption this summer.

It’s unclear where that plan or timeline currently stands as it is likely impacted by ongoing litigation against the NCAA, most notably the House antitrust case.

In the meantime, the council will explore and potentially adopt the new proposed legislation giving schools more of a role in NIL. The proposal would permit schools to “identify specific NIL opportunities” and “facilitate deals” between athletes and third parties, according to the legislation. There are caveats, most notably that an athlete cannot receive compensation from the school for NIL.

While schools would be permitted to “contract” with third-party service providers over NIL deals — such as multimedia rights holders, collectives, attorneys, NIL marketplaces — schools cannot indirectly compensate athletes through those third parties.

However, the NIL environment is a somewhat ambiguous mess where schools are following their own state laws while also adhering to contradictory NCAA guidance. Many state laws are permitting schools to pay NIL directly and prohibiting the NCAA to punish schools for potential violations related to NIL.

Things got more unsettled earlier this spring, when a court ruling at least temporarily suspended the NCAA’s enforcement of a portion of its NIL policy, giving booster collectives the ability to induce and negotiate with prospects before they enroll or sign.

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