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Greg Sankey sounds off on lack of NIL oversight at SEC media days

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos07/18/22


Greg Sankey did not wait for the NIL question on Monday at SEC Media Days in Atlanta. No, the SEC Commissioner addressed it head on in his opening statement — tackling one of the major storylines in the space over the last six weeks.

After an offseason that saw two of his premier head coaches squabbling over the role of NIL in the college football recruiting, he was not going to let this slip. The NCAA Division I Board of Directors released a directive in May aimed at limiting the impact of boosters who are using NIL ventures to lure top high-school recruits and target players in the transfer portal. That guidance has fallen short. Sankey knows that.

Stories of prospective student-athletes signing NIL deals with collectives become more common via NIL agents. Speaking in front of media members at the College Football Hall of Fame, Sankey swiftly called those agents and collectives out for their lack of transparency and the role they have played in this ever-changing NIL world.

“There’s an absence of oversight for those described as agents — these aren’t agents as we’ve come to know them over time — or NIL businesses that approach young people and families directly with offers with no transparency,” he said. “That gap needs to be addressed and the unregulated marketplace calls for action.”

The most infamous NIL deal with a recruit to date is the report of an $8 million NIL deal between a school’s collective and a five-star recruit. It’s widely believed Tennessee commitment Nico Iamaleava is the five-star recruit behind the deal.

Sankey did not slow down from there, though. He quickly pointed out how state laws have been a major hurdle for schools and athletes. Alabama has repealed its state law, putting the NCAA’s interim NIL policy into effect. Yet, Louisiana had to alter its state law this spring to make sure its athletes were staying on a competitive playing field in the conference.

“It’s a difficult issue, subject to the onset of state laws that came into effect last July, and since that time some of those same states have pulled back from those laws because it’s in the state’s competitive interest to do so,” the commissioner said. “It’s exactly what we warned about dating back to 2019; that a patchwork of state laws was the most ineffective way to approach name, image and likeness.

“Here is our view. We need a clear, enforceable standard to support national championship-caliber competition, and national championships themselves, like the College World Series, the Final Four, the College Football Playoff national championship, and every other national championship, so there is a connection and a common basis for competition.”

SEC will ‘not be complacent’ in NIL

Greg Sankey also served up a clear message to the NCAA on Monday afternoon: The SEC is not waiting on the national organization. He went to Washington, D.C., this spring, meeting with lawmakers about the possibility of national legislation. Sankey was honest Monday — this is not high on the agenda in Capitol Hill currently.

“The NCAA is limited in its ability to govern this space,” he said. “To put state universities in conflict with their own state laws is an impossibility. Litigation limits the extent to which the NCAA can actually act. That’s why the continuing identification of Congress is the opportunity to set a national standard remains important.

After months of mentioning how it could be in the cards, he directly addressed that the SEC will explore common NIL state laws being enacted across its 11 current and soon to be 12 states.

On3 dove into the issue this spring, which resulted in a wide variety of responses. Some NIL lawyers believe it could be realistic but going through the process of asking states to alter or repeal their laws is not quick. Others pointed out the realistic possibility that the SEC’s guidelines could be more restrictive than other conferences.

“Would absolutely welcome it,” an SEC recruiting coordinator told On3 of the possibility of SEC oversight at the time. “Not looking to take anything away from their players but putting up some guide rails, not leaving it to individual interpretations and adding some teeth to pay for play.”

Action is not going to come immediately. But the SEC is approaching standstill territory, forced to continue to deal with the same questions over and over. Patiently waiting on the NCAA to make a move is not the smart decision, which Sankey knows. And movement in the D.C. surely will not happen until after mid-term elections, at least.

Enter Greg Sankey and the SEC.

“We face headwinds in college sports? Absolutely,” he said Monday. “It’s actually not new. It’s a decades-old problem. Those decades-old problems now rest firmly on our agendas.

“The SEC will not be complacent, even with the knowledge that we’re in a position of strength. Now is the opportunity and the time to continue to support our student-athletes, and to the extent we can do more, we actually do more.”