Gene Smith Testifies in Favor of Federal NIL Legislation, Says Recruits “Asking for $5,000 Just to Visit Has Become Common”

By Dan Hope on September 20, 2023 at 10:57 am
Gene Smith

Gene Smith took his push for federal NIL legislation to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday morning.

The Ohio State athletic director was among the participants in a hearing held Wednesday by the House Committee on Small Business examining the impact athletes being able to make money off of their name, image and likeness has had on college sports. In his testimony, Smith said he believes “Congress needs to enact NIL legislation as soon as possible.”

Smith said he believes a federal NIL law should include “a national NIL standard so there is consistency across the country to ensure a level playing field,” required registration for NIL agents, standardized NIL contracts, prohibition of recruiting inducements, a public NIL registry “that brings transparency to the marketplace” and strong enforcement measures.

Smith affirmed that he is favor of athletes benefitting from their name, image and likeness, saying in his published testimony that he believes “NIL is beneficial to the student-athlete experience.” He noted that more than 420 Ohio State athletes have at least one NIL deal and that Buckeye athletes have made more than 2,000 NIL deals across all sports, with football and women’s volleyball attracting the most.

However, he thinks it is important to “maintain the amateur model of athletics,” and believes federal legislation is necessary to curtail the use of NIL as a recruiting inducement.

“For example, student-athletes and their parents visit campuses at the expense of those universities to evaluate where they may make a commitment. A practice of asking a school for a fee to simply visit campus has emerged; asking for $5,000 just to visit has become common,” Smith wrote in his published remarks. “During visits, discussions now emerge regarding how much a student-athlete can expect from NIL.”

“In worst case scenarios, student-athletes have been offered lucrative NIL ‘promises’ that have not materialized once they arrived on campus,” Smith also wrote. “In other cases, verbal NIL offers have been tendered to elite student-athletes to entice them to leave one institution and transfer to another based on a lucrative verbal NIL inducement.”

Smith has been calling for Congress to enact NIL legislation for years, expressing a belief that federal law is needed to help the NCAA govern NIL due to the fact that NIL is currently governed by laws that vary from state to state.

In May, Smith formally endorsed the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, a bipartisan bill that would create the Covered Athletic Organization Commission to make recommendations to Congress and NCAA schools on implementing NIL rules, create a process for certifying or recognizing credentialed agents and establish an independent dispute resolution process for disputes between athletes and the NCAA or schools.

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. It would also create a clearinghouse for NIL deals overseen by the Federal Trade Commission that would require athletes and agents who represent them to disclose any deals worth more than $500 within 72 hours of signing an agreement.

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