Missouri legislature hopes to "build the same size bomb" with NIL amendment
As the NCAA is trying to rein in name, image and likeness from being used as a recruiting inducement in college athletics, the Missouri state legislature is helping its schools push the envelope.
Both the House and Senate passed an amendment to the state’s existing NIL bill in Jefferson City on Thursday, the second-to-last day before the legislature is scheduled to adjourn. The amendment, introduced by Republican Rep. Kurtis Gregory, who played on the Missouri offensive line from 2005-09, would allow college coaches and athletic department administrators to help third parties strike NIL deals with players.
It now awaits signature from Gov. Mike Parson. If signed, the new language take effect Aug. 28.
While NIL compensation was not initially intended to serve as a recruiting inducement, Gregory didn’t hide from the fact that this amendment is meant to give Mizzou and other colleges in the state a leg up in attracting talent. Tennessee passed a similar state law last month. Gregory first heard about the Tennessee amendment on April 27, the day former Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was honored in the House on his 70th birthday. He wasted little time in preparing a similar provision for Missouri.
“I was like, oh, sounds like we need to build the same size bomb, so to speak,” Gregory said. “Because in my opinion, NIL is the new facilities race, stadiums race. It’s the arms war of college athletics.”
The NIL rules initially adopted in Missouri and across the country last July prevented university officials from having any involvement in NIL deals. This amendment would allow coaches and other athletic department employees to “identify or otherwise assist with opportunities for a student-athlete to earn compensation from a third party for the use of the student-athlete’s name, image, likeness rights or athletic reputation.” In other words, coaches can now have a say in which players get NIL deals and how much each should get paid.
There are still some limitations on athletic department employees, stipulating that they cannot serve as agents for student-athletes or attempt to influence their choice of representation. They are prohibited from being present at meetings between student-athletes and third parties, or receiving compensation for facilitating NIL deals. The bill also includes a requirement that any school that allows its student-athletes to benefit from NIL conduct a financial development workshop once a year for student-athletes.
Gregory believes the amendment will benefit the state because successful college sports teams represent a boon to their local economies.
“Just being able to give our Missouri institutions a competitive advantage, or at least stay on par with other schools, is just vital to keeping successful sports programs,” Gregory said. “Because if you’re not going to have a successful, specifically football and men’s basketball, but every team on down the line, then the economic impact of not having 80,000 people every weekend in Columbia or filling the Chaifetz Center over at SLU or any place where an athletic event is played, then you’re not maximizing the economic impact of the universities.”
The passage of Missouri’s amendment comes less than a week after the NCAA announced that it had informed schools of new, albeit vague, guidelines aimed at curbing boosters disguising pay for play as NIL. While the NCAA has not yet enacted a nationwide NIL statute, instead allowing each institution to follow its state’s law, it has remained steadfast in prohibiting pay for play and recruiting inducements.
Asked whether the new guidelines impacted his amendment, Gregory said “minorly.” Missouri’s NIL law still appears to be in compliance with the NCAA’s stance, as it states that colleges cannot compensate or cause compensation to be directed to prospective student-athletes or their families.
Gregory envisions a future in which the NCAA picks and chooses aspects of each state NIL law to make a national statute. But in the meantime, he wants to take advantage of the current rules void to give Missouri schools an edge.
“I think with the guardrails they came up with, that really wasn’t going to affect, in my opinion, what we were trying to accomplish,” Gregory said of the NCAA. “... It would not surprise me at some point in the near future if we get all the drafts ran, well, this isn’t working, this isn’t working, this isn’t working, but this is, this is. And coming into a product that’s going to be even across the board, so to speak.”
Gregory said it took him nine drafts to get the language right. He tacked the amendment onto a sweeping higher-education reform bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Barbara Washington. He credited Washington for helping re-word the language in order to get the measure passed. It passed in the House by a vote of 148-1 and in the Senate 32-1.
Gregory said he consulted Missouri football coach Eli Drinkwitz, albeit “very little,” while drafting the amendment. Last summer, Drinkwitz visited the state capitol to advocate for an NIL law in Missouri. Mizzou athletics director Desiree Reed-Francois took to Twitter to celebrate the passage of Gregory’s amendment.
The one thing Gregory didn’t include in his amendment that he considered was an emergency clause, which would have allowed the changes to take effect as soon as the bill was signed. But he said he “just went with what I felt like I could get done.”
“You’ve just got to make sure that you can stay on par with everyone else and try to find a way to maybe even get a leg up, and we were trying to figure something out with that,” Gregory said. “But we went with what we knew we could get done to give all the coaches in the state of Missouri a chance to go out and recruit and be as successful as they can be.”