NFHS: NIL Doesn’t Extend to High School

July 13, 2021 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) executive director has spoken out on what the NCAA’s implementation of NIL means for high school student-athletes.

Spoiler alert: it means nothing.

Dr. Karissa Niehoff recently penned an op-ed on the NFHS homepage outlining what the collegiate decision means for athletes at the high school level.

nilBelow is an excerpt from that article.

While it is not our position to debate the merits of current college athletes earning money from their NIL, it should be understood that these changes do not affect current high school student-athletes. Current high school student-athletes CANNOT earn money as a result of their connection to their high school team.

Already, in less than a week, we have seen articles suggesting that high school athletes should likewise be able to earn money from their NIL. Our member state associations have rules in place that prohibit student-athletes from receiving money in any form that is connected to wearing their school uniform.

High school sports, with almost eight million participants nationwide, are much different than college sports. High school sports are about the team – not an individual’s own personal pursuit of excellence. The primary reason that an overwhelming majority of high school students play sports is to have fun and spend significant and meaningful time with their peers. The focus is not on self but rather the team.

Some have argued that high school student-athletes should be able to profit from their own NIL because they are “working” for their school. Very simply, the privilege afforded millions of boys and girls to PLAY not only sports in high school, but also to participate in other activities such as speech, debate, band, and theatre is not work. It is a part of the overall high school experience, which, when combined with academic studies, prepares these students for life as adults in their chosen careers.

The other concern related to the approval of NIL laws at the college level is how it affects the recruiting process. We believe prospective student-athletes must not be influenced by NIL inducements until they are fully enrolled at an NCAA college or university.

While an NCAA Q&A on NIL notes that “NIL opportunities may not be used as a recruiting inducement or as a substitute for pay-for-play,” it also states that “prospective student-athletes may engage in the same types of NIL opportunities available to current student-athletes under the interim policy without impacting their NCAA eligibility.”

This is disturbing and contradictory information. Although this would not impact a current student’s NCAA eligibility, the athlete would be ineligible through his or her own state high school association. And we would suggest that high school students participating in out-of-school programs must not be allowed to benefit from NIL.

To read the full op-ed from the NFHS’s Dr. Karissa Niehoff on how NIL affects high school student-athletes, click here.