As of July 2022, 29 states have passed legislation addressing how student-athletes can profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL), with an additional 10 states waiting on proposed NIL legislation to pass.
To brush up on our knowledge of NIL history, in September 2019, California passed SB 206, the first state legislation granting college students the right to earn profit from their name, image, and likeness. A domino effect followed, leading to a landmark Supreme Court case that resulted in the NCAA changing its stance on NIL and making it legal for student-athletes to profit off of their NILs.
But now the question comes down to: is there a federal NIL law? The U.S. Congress has yet to pass federal legislation creating a coherent NIL regulation across the country, leaving us with a patchwork of legislation that varies across state lines. With no federal legislation to govern how students can monetize their fame, college recruits and transfers are often left to navigate these uncharted waters on their own.
In this guide, we’ll provide a comparison of NIL laws across different states, as well as a ranking of which states and conferences have the best interests of college athletes’ NIL rights in mind. Hopefully, with this insight, the convoluted world of varying NIL laws will make a little more sense.
When comparing NIL laws by state, many laws have a few factors in common. For example, most NIL laws limit the duration of contracts, so that contract lengths don’t extend beyond the athlete’s collegiate athletic career at a particular institution. Another common characteristic when comparing NIL laws is the existence of a bar on pay-for-play, which is included in the NCAA’s Interim NIL Policy.
Some people see some cause for concern over the ways different states differ in their NIL regulations. Some believe there to be potential unfairness in the recruiting process, as states with less restrictive NIL laws may seem more favorable than states with more restrictions.
The National College Players Association, in an effort to protect the interests of college athletes, has compiled a ranking of the best NIL laws by state. According to the NCPA executive director, the purpose of this is to provide college recruits and transfers with an additional level of consideration when weighing scholarship offers, based on how much liberty they have for profiting from their fame in different states. In the same way that athletes weigh athletic facilities, scholarship offers, and college ranking as factors when making commitment decisions, they now have another category to evaluate: the states’ status of NIL legislation.
Taking 21 different aspects of state NIL laws that can be either helpful or hurtful to college athletes, the NCPA’s ranking gives states a score from 0 (no NIL laws at all) to 100 (an NIL law that helps college athletes in every category). New Mexico earned the NCPA’s highest ranking among the states with NIL laws at a score of 90%. Alabama, Illinois, and Mississippi tied for the lowest rank, at a score of 43%.
Obviously, as sports fans, we like to look at things in rankings. Let’s see how different states stack up when it comes to the NCPA’s NIL rankings.
It should be noted, however, that many states who enacted legislation prior to the NCAA’s NIL Interim Policy, like Alabama for example, are now in the process of proposing, amending, or repealing legislation to expand NIL rights in their states. We weren’t kidding when we said this process is constantly evolving.
Let’s take a look at the NCPA’s ranking by conference to get a better idea of which conferences host the best scoring states based on NIL laws. We’ve added up each of the scores of the states within the Power Five conferences to give you an idea of how conferences stack up against each other.
South Carolina: 48%
Total Score: 609
Total Score: 295
South Carolina: 48%
North Carolina: 62%
New York: 0%
Total Score: 343
New Jersey: 76%
Total Score: 490
West Virginia: 0%
Total Score: 242
While the NCPA’s ranking system gives college recruits and transfers a good idea of the status of NIL laws by state, it’s hard to provide a total number of NIL earnings by state since the status of NIL is still so new. Algorithms like On3 NIL Valuation predict which high-status players take the cake as earning the most from NIL. Let’s take a look at a few of the top-earning college football players.
The next few years will tell a lot as states begin enacting and amending NIL legislation, and how that will affect federal NIL regulations. NIL is already becoming a powerful force in shaping recruitment decisions, just as players in the NFL make decisions based on where the money is.
The athletic world of NIL is anything but a clear-cut case. While eight federal NIL laws have been introduced since 2019, none have garnered enough support to pass. With no uniformity at the national level, it can be difficult to navigate different NIL laws by state. For a better understanding of NIL in general, Icon Source has plenty of resources explaining everything you need to know about NIL. The bottom line is that brands and athletes need to keep a finger on the pulse of this new, ever-changing era of NIL and understand the implications of different laws governing an athlete’s right to profit from fame.