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No NILs for high school athletes yet

COLUMBUS — Ohio high school principals voted to nix an Ohio High School Athletic Association proposal for Ohio scholastic athletes to make money off Name, Image and Likeness after the results of a statewide vote on referendums were revealed on Tuesday.

The Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) proposal failed by a margin of 538 to 254 (68 percent against).

The proposal mirrored recent changes made at the collegiate level and would have allowed student-athletes to sign endorsement agreements so long as their teams, schools and/or the OHSAA logo were not used, the endorsements did not happen on school property or in school uniform, and provided there were no endorsements with companies that do not support the mission of education-based athletics, such as casinos, gambling, alcohol, drugs and tobacco. By rejecting the proposal, Ohio’s student-athletes remain unable sign endorsement deals without losing their amateur status.

“Every year, the referendum voting process shows that our member schools have a voice in this democratic process,” OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute said in a statement.

“Our office was very pleased with the discussion and insights our schools expressed this spring as we met with them about each of the 14 proposals. If NIL is going to enter the Ohio interscholastic landscape, we want the schools to be the ones to make that determination. Whatever we do moving forward, it will include discussion on this issue with our school administrators, Board of Directors, staff and leaders of other state high school athletic associations.”

It is unclear if OHSAA’s decision to block NIL deals will be able to stand up long term in wake of the Alston v. NCAA Supreme Court decision. Other state high school governing bodies have constructed regulations around NIL deals in an attempt to have frameworks in place in order to avoid the chaos that followed in wake of the NCAA decision.

OHSAA spokesperson Tim Stried previously said the organization opposed marketing deals for high school athletes.

While there are exceptions, the amounts college athletes are earning from NIL deals are small. According to data gathered by Opendorse Deals, the average payout since July for large-school Division I athletes is $664. It’s just $59 for Division II athletes and $43 for Division III athletes.

Nearly 70% of deals involve social media posts, the Opendorse data shows.

David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports business at Ohio University, frames the opportunity for student-athletes to benefit financially as a civil rights issue. Athletes are not employees of the schools they attend and should not be restricted from earning money, he told the AP in April, adding that amounts won’t be large but could put “a few extra bucks in their pockets.”

“In my view, it’s all been positive,” Ridpath said. “College and, by extension, high school athletes, are not employees and should not be restricted to any market place where they have value.”

Ohio High School Athletic Association member schools passed 12 of 14 proposed revisions to the OHSAA Constitution and Bylaws. The OHSAA’s annual referendum voting period ended at 4 p.m. Monday. Each member school has one vote on each item, which is cast by the high school principal. Once again, nearly every school participated in the voting process, with 813 of the OHSAA’s 817 member high schools casting their ballot (99.5 percent).

The other issue that failed by a narrow margin of 406 to 393 was a proposal to add a new exception to the Enrollment and Attendance Bylaw, which would have permitted a student enrolled at a member public school that does not sponsor a team sport to potentially play that sport at a public school located in a bordering public school district. The vote count on this issue was the closest referendum outcome since Competitive Balance during the 2014 cycle when it failed 327-308 before it passed in the following cycle.

The approved Bylaw and Constitution changes will go into effect August 1, unless noted otherwise. A simple majority of votes cast by member school principals is required for a proposed amendment to be adopted. Each member school has one vote.

Another change of note is student managers with intellectual or physical disability will be able to suit up and play in a game without verification of certain aspects of eligibility. The student is allowed to participate in one contest per season and the opposing coach and officials would have to be made aware of the situation ahead of time. The vote passed 793-13 with seven abstaining.

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