NIL contracts in high school?

May 31, 2024, 2:00 PM

a group of high school basketball students celebrate, are high school nil contracts going to become...

Layton Christian Academy players surround the championship trophy after Layton Christian Academy defeated Cottonwood in the 4A boys basketball state championship game at the UCCU Center in Orem on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (Isaac Hale/Deseret News)

(Isaac Hale/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s hard to talk about college sports in 2024 without talking about NIL contracts – name, image and likeness contracts.

Who can forget the University of Utah football players getting those beautiful red trucks?

Just last week, we learned that the NCAA reached a deal with various college sports leagues to allow student-athletes to be paid directly.

With the movement of money into younger and younger realms, is it just a matter of time before high school athletes sign NIL contracts?

Related: Board votes to change Utah high school rules for transfer, international students

“We are unaware of anyone who has received an NIL award or contract,” explained Mark Van Wagoner, attorney for the Utah High School Activities Association.

But that doesn’t mean they haven’t addressed the issue.

The rule for high school athletes

After college sports decided that NIL contracts no longer violated the amateur rule, high schools followed.

“We deal with this with a rule,” Van Wagoner explained. The rule in the UHSAA handbook says the following:

Although a student may accept money for the use of his or her name, image, and likeness, doing so in the following manner will be considered a violation of the Amateur Rule: 1. Wearing a school team uniform or any identifying school insignia while appearing in any advertisement, promotional activity or endorsement for any commercial product or service; or lending his/her name and team affiliation for purposes of commercial endorsement.”

“But,” Van Wagoner stressed, “it’s not been something to which our attention has been drawn. We’re unaware of any commercial application of it.”

The rule on recruiting

Now that universities are in a position of “having to pay these players so we can keep them or get them,” Van Wagoner explained that “we don’t have that. Something sort of like that would be recruiting. In college, you can recruit players, but in high school, you still can’t.”

So, if a high school coach wanted to attract a player from another high school, he or she could not go and recruit that player.

“That’s our rule,” Van Wagoner said. “It’s an undue influence rule. Our rule is intended to try to keep students in school for education and not have them transfer from place to place for sports.”

What the future holds

Van Wagoner has represented the Activities Association for nearly 50 years.

“Everything has changed so dramatically in the way sports are played,” he said. “Were the sorts of things to happen that are happening in college sports, with groups paying student-athletes to go to a school, it would be really tragic for high school competition in the state.”

Van Wagoner called himself a little old-fashioned about high school sports.

“I think it ought to be for fun.”

He acknowledged that the world of sports is always changing. “There are so many things now on our plate that I never would have anticipated. It wouldn’t surprise me if this happened.”

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View on KSL NewsRadio. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. 

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NIL contracts in high school?