Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith Backs Bipartisan Bill to Create Federal NIL Legislation

By Dan Hope on May 25, 2023 at 4:39 pm
Gene Smith

Gene Smith is throwing his support behind a bipartisan effort to create a federal standard for NIL in college sports.

The Ohio State athletic director has endorsed the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, a bipartisan bill introduced Wednesday in Congress by Representatives Mike Carey and Greg Landsman, both from Ohio, to create a federal standard for NIL in college sports.

“I’m pleased that student-athletes now have the opportunity to benefit from their name, image and likeness. At Ohio State, our NIL programming assists student-athletes as they capitalize on their hard work, generate income for necessary expenses, and learn marketing and financial literacy skills. However, NIL laws and regulations remain inconsistent from state to state,” Smith said in a statement released by Carey. “Representative Carey’s work to bring forth consistent, national NIL regulations will further protect student athletes and bring order to NIL policies and procedures nationwide. On behalf of Ohio State, I want to thank Representative Carey for this significant and important legislation.”

The Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, which was initially introduced in 2021 by former Ohio State football player Anthony Gonzalez during his time as a Representative, would establish the Covered Athletic Organization Commission, which would make recommendations to Congress and NCAA schools on implementing NIL rules, creating a process for certifying or recognizing credentialed agents and establishing an independent dispute resolution process for disputes between athletes and the NCAA or schools. The commission would consist of athletic directors, coaches, current and former college athletes, college sports administrators, professionals with expertise in sports marketing, contracting and public relations and individuals with expertise in corporate governance.

The act would stipulate that schools cannot prohibit athletes from entering into endorsement deals but would ban boosters from using NIL deals as inducements for recruits to attend specific schools.

The bill was amended by Carey and Landsman to also create a clearinghouse for NIL deals overseen by the Federal Trade Commission. Athletes and agents who represent them would be required to disclose any deals worth more than $500 within 72 hours of signing an agreement.

Smith has been a proponent of allowing college athletes to sign endorsement deals since before the NCAA eliminated the ban on athletes benefitting from their names, images and likenesses in July 2021. Smith was the co-chair of an NCAA working group from 2019-21 that created recommendations for how the NCAA should move forward with allowing NIL benefits.

Those recommendations did not become legislation, however, and Smith has repeatedly said he believes there needs to be “guardrails” around NIL to prevent the recruiting inducements that have become rampant throughout college sports since the NIL ban ended two years ago. Smith believes Congressional legislation is the key to properly regulating NIL, as the laws that currently govern NIL vary from state to state.

“I'm hopeful that at some point in time, we do get federal legislation,” Smith said in 2022. “I don't think the NCAA is the answer in this particular case. I think it needs to be federal legislation. And that won't happen now, because of what's going on in Washington. But maybe it will, at some point. I think there are enough politicians who are paying attention and are interested, but it's gonna take time.”

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