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Case Study - Arizona High School Student-Athlete NIL Infraction & Newly Proposed Guidelines

If you make it a point to pay attention to the Name, Image, & Likeness landscape at the high school level, then you know that over the past few months there have been quite a few states that have either:


  • Had their state athletic association bylaws changed (added to) to permit NIL

  • Had politicians move forward legislation in regards to High School NIL activity (regulations, restrictions, allowances, etc.)

  • Held further discussions around all of the above


I've been blessed to be part of many of these conversations, and have had the opportunity to analyze and redline state policy and legislative considerations, discuss trends, as well as support associations / schools / administrators / coaches / parents / student-athletes with live and virtual workshops as the desire to proactively develop a further understanding of NIL at the High School Level continues.

As part of these opportunities, I spent a few days in Chandler, Arizona this past fall educating student-athletes and families on personal branding / social media strategy and understanding Name, Image, & Likeness. At the time, Arizona did not (and currently does not) allow NIL activities for high school student-athletes, but discussions around a shift and potential new policies for their state were in full effect. 

I was extremely impressed that Chandlers AD - Shawn Rustad, who knew the impact NIL was having on many of his student-athletes / families at the college level, wanted to be proactive in supporting NIL educational programming for high school stakeholders ensuring they understood Arizona's policy, but also wanted them to know enough to prepare for potential opportunities post graduation. 

Fast forward a few months (to this week), and the legislative council of the Arizona Interscholastic Association unanimously passed an amendment proposal to their bylaws that will expressly permit high school NIL activity for student-athletes. 

The language is a combination of a few different state policies, but most closely aligns with NIL guideline language from the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). 

The AD's who worked to develop this language did their due diligence, and throughout the process I was impressed with their continual questions and focus on ensuring they were doing what they believe is in the best interest of Arizona HS Athletics right now. 

(And again, I'm not saying I support or condemn NIL at the High School Level - that's not my job , but, as we'll see here in a minute, they felt it was time to move something forward because things were happening).

The following PROPOSED AMENDMENT will be voted on at the upcoming AIA Executive Board meeting on March 18th, 2024.




Which brings me to the point of this Doc's Dose of NIL. 

When the AIA Executive board meeting agenda was published, it included a School Violations section (which is not uncommon for most state association board meetings), where they discuss / deal with infractions (or "potential infractions") that have occurred.

In the agenda, there was a reported violation in regards to the current AIA Amateur Rule, specific to NIL activity from Centennial High School.

As you'll see below, it outlines the violation, as well as the corrective action, and the advisement to the student-athlete that 

"he will be ineligible for the 2024 football season due to this violation."




Some of the findings are what I discuss in my workshops / trainings as many don't understand NIL restrictions, state policies, state laws, what they're allowed (or not allowed) to do, and the due diligence to ensure everything is safe and compliant. 

As it states,

"He wasn't aware of the NIL restrictions."

Let's face it, most people get their (mis)information from what they see happening at the Division I college level. Student-athletes sometimes just assume it's ok. And often their parents do to.


  • High School is different. 

  • High School Association policies are different and often hard to understand.

  • They're often not communicated well, or understood until after the fact.


Anyone (especially an NIL educator, or ANYONE who works in the NIL space) that says "Oh yeah, I understand High School NIL, it's not that much different than college" makes me cringe. 

Too many "NIL entrepreneurs" and NIL business organizations are transitioning into the High School space without enough knowledge of the state association policies, and it scares me.. a ton.

But I regress... 


  • Should the kid have done his due diligence? Yes.

  • Should he have asked his Athletic Director prior to doing anything? Yes.

  • Should he have talked to his parents about this, & asked more questions? Yes.


But we also must realize these are young kids. (Which is often the argument against permitting high school NIL activity).

If you've spent much time working in the K12 space, this is going to happen, unfortunately. 

That's not a knock against junior high and high school students, because I love working with this age group (I even currently coach high school basketball), but, they've got a lot going on, sometimes don't think things through, and might not have a lot of support.

As the findings from the reported violation also state, 

"He had seen other athletes that were on the site and reached out to the company to get involved."

Should the company have known better? Maybe.

But it's not on them. They're not the ones in trouble. 

Does it look bad? Maybe

 But, again, it's ultimately not their problem. 

I get calls from companies weekly asking about NIL at the High School level, and most don't understand the governance structure, and usually are overwhelmed by the end of our talk. 

Do those companies continue to do their due diligence to understand each states policy? 

I doubt it, but I'm hopeful someday they will.

But the biggest concern I have, which I ALWAYS discuss during my workshops / trainings is in regards to the ultimate impact of a high school NIL related infraction.

When you consider high school association NIL policies / guidelines, it usually doesn't matter if it's by the student-athlete, a family member, or anyone else acting on behalf of the student, an infraction is ultimately is going to impact the student-athletes ---> ABILITY TO PARTICIPATE IN HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS.

The state associations don't have any jurisdiction over the external organizations involved, or aren't going to disassociate a "booster" from the school, or get involved with any matters external the school. 

They're going to focus on the student-athlete / (and or coach) that ultimately is going to be penalized. 

The argument of "we didn't know" isn't enough (at least from my research and experience) for any infraction to be overturned. 

Even if they've tried to rectify the situation, or didn't actually monetize on the action, it usually doesn't matter. 

As was the case of the Arizona student-athlete, they received no money because no purchases were made, and the site was taken down in less than 48 hours.

I think the question now is one that the NCAA has been dealing with from the start...

"If you're going to have regulations / rules, you have to enforce them. If you don't, then you don't have regulations / rules."

Oh yeah, and state association enforcement procedures / required corrective actions are all different too. 

I honestly feel bad for the student-athlete, because I feel like I could have helped. 

Maybe this is a bigger call for access to NIL educational resources specific to high school state associations. But many of those associations partner with organizations that don't specifically focus on High School NIL Education, or High School NIL Policies.

That's why I build specific STATE ASSOCIATION SPECIFIC NIL POLICY GUIDES and ensure my trainings / workshops are specific to the state association (or governing entity) regulations (or lack thereof) in which I'm working / educating. 

It's not a one size fits all, and it never will be. 

I just hope I can help educate as many high school admins, coaches, student-athletes, families, and businesses as possible so that this doesn't happen again (or at the very least, happens on a very limited occasion).

If you know any schools that need support, please don't hesitate to send them my way!

Here to help in any way that I can!

Keep Being Awesome!

- Doc G

 

Dr. Scott Grant, or “Doc G” as his students call him, is former high school teacher, coach, and athletic director turned college professor in educational leadership / social media / branding, and founded Triple Threat Leadership, LLC. (www.triplethreatleadership.com) & NIL-Education (www.nil-education.com).

Need resources for Personal Branding & Social Media Education? Check out Dr. Grant's "Branding of ME" course, utilized by over 10,000 students, and integrated into hundreds of school curriculums across the country.

Need help navigating Name, Image, and Likeness and preparing your program? Dr. Grant offers services to assist, and will develop specific tools / resources that fit your districts need.

If you’re interested in staying up to date about all things NIL-Education, head on over to www.NIL-Education.com and subscribe!!

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