NCAA president warns NIL could lead to Title IX implications for school-affiliated collectives

On3 imageby:Eric Prisbell04/26/23



DALLAS – As states continue to revamp laws to allow schools and fundraising foundations that form collectives to source NIL deals for student-athletes, NCAA president Charlie Baker warns there could be Title IX implications on the horizon.

During a Q&A session Monday at the LEAD1 Association’s annual spring meeting, Baker said if universities become more formally involved with NIL and donor-driven collectives move under the umbrellas of schools, questions will certainly be raised about how female student-athletes are supported through deals and opportunities.

“The Office of Civil Rights would say right now that if a collective is affiliated … with a college or university then they need to be spending as much money on women’s sports as they spend on men’s sports and as much money on women athletes as they spend on men athletes,” Baker told LEAD1 CEO Tom McMillen during the Q&A discussion.

Recently, Arkansas revamped its NIL law in mid-April to allow schools and fundraising foundations to source NIL deals for athletes. The Arkansas bill also gives all 501(c)(3) collectives, including athletics fundraising foundations, the right to enter into deals with athletes. Similar legislation is on the governor’s desk in Oklahoma, and Texas lawmakers are also considering a comparable bill.

These changes have received a lot of national attention after The 12th Man+ Fund was launched at Texas A&M in February. A&M and Arkansas are believed to be the first schools whose official booster organization also is directly fundraising for NIL opportunities for student-athletes.

Title IX concerns part of NCAA’s push for NIL reform

NIL observers have openly questioned how these official booster organizations will support female student-athletes compared to their male counterparts.

Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College, wrote a letter in early January to the Office for Civil Rights for The Drake Group about how NIL collectives have impacted women in sports. Zimbalist believes they are contributing to the Women’s Sports Foundation’s finding that upward of 90% of NCAA schools are out of Title IX compliance.

Baker said concerns about Title IX are part of why the NCAA’s been calling for NIL reform and even federal legislation.

To further strengthen his stance that reform is needed, Baker pointed to a 2022 survey by LEAD1 – a group representing the interests of FBS athletic directors – that found 90% of ADs surveyed described themselves as “concerned” about NIL being used as an improper recruiting tool.

“Those are legitimate issues that have to be dealt with,” Baker said. “This came up in the survey work that you all [LEAD1] did, might have been one of the highest scores of all, which was that there does need to be a framework or regulatory model around collectives to begin with. That’s a 90 percenter … If the NCAA were to take this on, the challenge we would face is how do we deal with the fact that we’re going to have certain states that are basically going to say, ‘What the NCAA thinks doesn’t matter?’ 

“But that does make, in some respects, the idea of creating a national framework through federal legislation stronger than it would be otherwise. Because we have evidence – it’s going to be hard to do this on a voluntary basis.”