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FHSAA board approves NIL bylaws for high school athletes

Florida becomes the 36th state, plus Washington, D.C., to approve such bylaws.

Riverview High's DJ Johnson ran for 1,660 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2023. Could that production now earn him an NIL opportunity under the FHSAA's new rules?
Riverview High's DJ Johnson ran for 1,660 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2023. Could that production now earn him an NIL opportunity under the FHSAA's new rules?
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It was the inevitable result. 

As soon as the NCAA approved rules letting athletes profit from their name, image and likeness in July 2021, it was only a matter of time before those rules trickled down to the high school level. In fact, it started just a few months later, with the governing bodies of high school athletics in New York, New Jersey and Nebraska all approving high school NIL in their states in 2021. 

For a while, the Florida High School Athletic Association was a holdout on such laws. But over the last year, as more states approved such bylaws, talk began to increase. 

Now, the day is here. 

On Tuesday, the FHSAA board of directors officially approved bylaws allowing high school athletes in Florida to profit from NIL via a unanimous vote. In doing so, Florida became the 36th state, plus Washington, D.C., to approve such bylaws. Though the FHSAA has approved them, the bylaws are still pending State Board of Education ratification on July 24. 

Here's the basics. Starting with the 2024-2025 school year, athletes from all high school sports can profit from the use of their name, image and likeness in any way that does not violate FHSAA bylaws. This means that athletes can promote products and services provided by local (or national) businesses, with some exceptions. These exceptions are largely common sense: things from the adult entertainment world, for example, plus weapons, alcohol and tobacco products. Athletes are also barred from promoting gambling and sports betting services, as well as political and social activist organizations. 

Athletes are also barred from promoting their schools and the FHSAA in any NIL content they may create. 

Cardinal Mooney High rising sophomore girls basketball forward Madi Migerny has college offers from the University of Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic University and the University of South Florida among other schools. Could that recognition earn her NIL opportunities next season?
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The FHSAA has also included language in the bylaws meant to curtail the use of NIL as a recruiting tool, something that concerned many in the high school sports community. The bylaws ban athletes from participating in activities involving NIL collectives, defined as "groups, organizations, or cooperative enterprises that exist to collect funds from donors and help facilitate NIL deals for student-athletes, and/or create ways for athletes to monetize from their NIL." 

At the college level, NIL collectives in practice have become a way to pay players to go to specific schools, something that becomes apparent when you look at things like football quarterback Jaden Rashada's lawsuit against the University of Florida. Rashada claims he was promised $13.85 million over four years to play for the Gators — a deal negotiated by the school's NIL collective — and signed a national letter of intent with the school as a result; when the Gators tried to go back on the deal, Rashada asked out of his letter of intent. Rashada played the 2023 season at Arizona State University before transferring to the University of Georgia. 

In addition to the ban on collectives, there is specific language in the bylaws that bans using NIL money as a recruiting tool, and athletes will not be allowed to enter an NIL agreement if they have already transferred to a new school after starting a sports season, unless they get an exemption from the county. 

If you want to read the new NIL rules in full, they are section 9.9 of the FHSAA handbook.

Though the bylaws have now been passed, questions remain, the biggest being how these laws will be enforced. That was the concern of Riverview High football Head Coach Josh Smithers when he heard of the bylaws passing. 

"How do you know when the lines are blurred?" Smithers said. "Think about private schools. There are probably a lot of people who own their own businesses (who have kids) at private schools. If someone sponsors someone who came over to the football team, how do you prove that was not recruiting, that it was just an opportunity for their business?" 

Riverview High football Head Coach Josh Smithers said he's OK with his Rams players earning money from NIL opportunities, though he has questions about how the ban on using NIL for the recruitment of players will be enforced.
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It is something that the FHSAA will have to figure out as issues arrive. In general, Smithers said, he's in favor of his athletes profiting from their NIL if a local business wants to feature them in some way — granted that opportunity does not distract them from working hard on the field and in the weight room. And there's a chance that the whole thing turns out to be a lot of noise with no real consequence. Smithers said he talked to three coaching friends in Georgia, which passed high school NIL laws in October 2023, about their experiences. The three coaches all worked for different schools, and all three said none of their players have received NIL deals yet. 

It is possible that these laws only end up affecting the top 1% of high school athletes in Florida going forward. Those athletes may not be in the more "popular" sports like football and basketball, either; athletes like swimmers and golfers who routinely compete in regional and national events may have more name recognition in their specific communities. Jacksonville golfer Miles Russell, a high school freshman, is the perfect example; at 15, he's going to be the youngest golfer to play a PGA Tour event at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit later this month. 

It is also possible that, in a sports-hungry area like Sarasota, the top few athletes at each school get small payments for their appearance in local ads. Maybe a record-setting running back gets in a car dealership ad, or an NCAA Division I-bound girls basketball player gets sponsored by a company looking to capitalize on the booming popularity of the WNBA and women's basketball more generally. 

It is also possible that everything descends into chaos from here. 

Where the NIL rollercoaster will stop, no one knows — even the FHSAA board. 

"This is something new," Board President Monica Colucci said during the FHSAA's Tuesday meeting. "We are going into new territory for the state of Florida." 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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