Gene Smith Thinks NCAA Passing Name, Image, Likeness Legislation Is “Going To Happen” By July 1

By Colin Hass-Hill on May 23, 2021 at 2:40 pm
NCAA offices
Charlie Nye, Indianapolis Star via Imagn Content Services, LLC

To say the NCAA has taken its time in allowing college athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness would be a gross understatement. It has dragged its feet at just about every turn as the push for reform has grown.

But time is running out. Its hand is being forced.

Five states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico – have passed laws allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness that will go into effect on July 1.  If the NCAA doesn’t pass its own legislation by then, it’ll find itself in a messy situation where players in different states have different rules governing their ability to make money off of their NIL. 

Gene Smith, Ohio State’s athletic director, isn’t pleased that the NCAA has been slow to finalize NIL plans. The NCAA’s Division I Council met last week, and in that meeting he thought their legislation should have been approved. Instead, it was tabled, with the NCAA saying in a press release that the Council is now “expected to act on legislative proposals regarding name, image and likeness during its June 22-23 meeting.”

Some skepticism exists as to whether or not the NCAA will put in place NIL rules by the time July 1 arrives, especially since it’s taken so long to arrive at this point. One source Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports talked to believes the “only pathway forward” for the NCAA is to get Congress to aid it with federal legislation. 

Smith, however, remains optimistic that the NCAA will put something together by the first day of July.

“I think it's going to happen,” Smith said to Eleven Warriors three days ago on the next episode of Real Pod Wednesdays. “I'm disappointed that it didn't happen in the last council meeting. I'm on the NCAA legislative solutions group. When I moved from my chair position, I moved to the legislative solutions group and we crafted the legislation that I think is good legislation that should have been passed in January. And I believe that it should have been passed this week at the council meeting. But I understand their rationale. There was concerns. I'm hopeful that it's passed in June and across the country it's opened up July 1.

“There's 15 states right now with bills. The federal government, there's a lot more conversation now because this is imminent. A slight shot that there might be a piece of federal legislation. I'm confident that in some form or fashion it's going to happen July 1. I'm really happy that it will be. I think I started in May of 2019 on that committee, and I'm really happy that it's going to get there.”

Ohio is not currently among those 15 states Smith referenced that have passed NIL bills. Smith says he hasn’t fretted over this state’s lack of legislation because he’s “confident” the NCAA will pass its overriding rules by July 1.

But, with a smile, he also mentioned that there’s still time for the state of Ohio to introduce a bill.

“Ohio's still not over yet,” Smith said. “We've still got all of June.”

In the meantime, Smith says, Ohio State has tried to put together plans for how to deal with the inevitability of athletes being able to profit off of their name, image and likeness.

The athletic department, for a while, didn’t know exactly what to expect. There’s still a waiting game to be played until the specifics are known, but at least now Smith and Ohio State have a better idea of the rules and regulations expected to be put in place.

“I really ask my teammates to be patient and let's get as close as we can to where things might be so we might have clarity,” Smith said. “That was hard because other schools were moving and doing certain things. I didn't want to be in a situation where we got ahead of things and had to reverse, which I think some of my colleagues across the country are going to have to do. But now we really have clarity on what it will be one way or the other.”

If the NCAA does what the long-time athletic director anticipates and implements national legislation for all college athletes to profit off of their NIL on July 1, Smith wants Ohio State to be ready.

“What our team has done, led by Carey Hoyt in our administrative area working with a small committee, they've really developed a good plan,” Smith said. “June will be a great month for education. We'll spend a lot of time educating our coaches, student-athletes. We're going to do education with donors, business leaders. We're going to spend a lot of time educating in the month of June, ready to activate July 1.”

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