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0745, 23 Apr 24

WIAA considers implementing NIL

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the voluntary governing body for high school sports in the state, will take up the question of whether high school athletes should be allowed to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) as in college sports. I strongly urge the WIAA to reject this proposal.


To date, 31 other states have already allowed NIL in high school sports. Wisconsin’s high school athletic directors, who comprise the membership of the WIAA, have been reluctant to follow suit, but it appears that such reluctance may have been overcome.


At issue is the definition of “amateur.”


The simple definition is that if one is not directly paid to compete in a sport, then one is an amateur. For decades, high school and college sports insisted that their athletes be true amateurs to preserve the competitive balance of sports. We did not want rich schools to pay professional athletes to dominate a sport. The loophole in the system was that wealthy school supporters would give gifts or highly paid noshow/ low-show jobs to talented athletes to attract them to a particular school. To combat this, the WIAA, NCAA, and other athletic governing bodies banned athletes from profiting from the fact that they are athletes. These governing bodies tended to over-enforce the rules to the point that athletes were wary of even having a regular job for fear of losing their amateur status.




While I support NIL for college sports, high school sports are different for one significant reason. The athletes are minors.


They are dependents of their parents who are responsible for their care. Money made from the athletes’ NIL does not go to the athlete, but to the athlete’s parent or guardian.


This fact makes NIL at the high school level take on the attributes of exploitation of a minor rather than freeing the athlete from exploitation.


The other movement in sports that corrupts this issue is the spread of legal sports gambling. Americans have always gambled on sports, but it was relegated to shadowy corners of society. We shunned it from the light because of the corrosive nature of gambling on competition. The availability of online sports betting and a growing cultural acceptance has made sports betting a big business and many people participate.


The corrosive effect of gambling is already seeping into high school sports. Infusing NIL money and influences into high school athletics will only increase the incentives and abilities of bad actors to corrupt the games.


It is not difficult to imagine someone with a betting interest in a high school sport using NIL influence to change the outcomes. We have a long history of cheating on sports to win a bet.


It is important for high school athletes to be able to work a job or receive reasonable gifts without jeopardizing their amateur status and ability to compete. The WIAA should work to clarify those rules so that athletes can work and compete without fear. But the WIAA should reject implementing NIL in Wisconsin. The risks to the athletes and their sports are not worth the rewards.


0745, 23 April 2024


  1. Merlin

    Gee, what can go wrong when you open yet another avenue for adults to exploit minors?

    Just because it’s being done somewhere else already doesn’t mean Wisconsin needs to be an early adopter. The only people going to make any money here are the lawyers involved in the coming decade worth of litigation. This is a mistake WIAA does not need to make. The benefits to be gained are minimal at best and the likelihood of abuse is just too high. Let others take the pain first and learn from their mistakes.

  2. jonnyv

    I am personally for the NIL for HS athletes. But, I think that stipulations would need to be made that the NIL money would be put away in a trust for the student when they turn 18. We have seen too many parents exploit their successful children.

    I support a free market here. I don’t believe there would be an abundance of gambling issues anymore than we would see now. In fact, giving players another option at a paycheck could actually dissuade players who are making nothing now.

    There is a pretty reliable rumor about a basketball family in Milwaukee that was paid 1M by Duke University for their children to go to Duke. The first son recently committed. The Knueppel family. Take this with a grain of salt, but things like this are going to happen.

  3. Tuerqas

    I am personally against it at the HS and collegiate level. There is no doubt that talent would shift even more drastically to the monied schools than it does today. Having been an athlete at both levels, it is a little bit about the purity of the sport and a lot about getting even more perks than student athletes have received in the past. School is paid for by everyone for education, not sports. This is just one more sideshow to take all eyes away from that simple fact. 40 years ago athletes got special dispensations and it has gotten worse every decade since. Athletes are getting even more inferior educations than the regular populace now because of it too.

    The most surprising thing to me is that liberals anywhere are for it. It teaches the opposite of what they have been striving to change education to for several decades. Mediocrity and teaching to the lowest common denominator is part of the current day curriculum (what is anti-racism but completely equal outcomes starting at the education level). This will be teaching favoritism, special dispensations and now money for excellence. But not school excellence, nope, only for athletic excellence.

    I am against it in College as they are already getting free or discounted educations for providing the school alternative revenue streams, they are being paid already in the form of those scholarships. If you really want NIL in College, have it totally replace all scholarship programs, or at least replace it for all students that accept NIL money( they can choose what avenue they wish to take). If you are making money for your sport, you lose free education. All of the pro level athletes are already looking for ways to get drafted sooner rather than gaining any education anyway. Free College today is a huge cost to gain, additional pay is just unnecessary, in my opinion. Especially as NIL will most lucratively target the ones that will be most likely to be going on to professional careers in the first place.

  4. MHMaley

    NIL WILL pass in Wisconsin .. AD’s are already preparing for what that looks like .

    I’m looking into the idea that Parents of minors will be paid HS NIL monies . If taxes are with held , how is that any different than a minor working at a gas station and paid directly by the gas station ?

    There may be Vegas lines for games with independent schools like IMG that don’t play under state school guidelines but you’ll be hard pressed to find a place to bet the over under on a game between West Bend West and West Bend East

    As far as the Duke rumor , the # is hard to believe . The Wisconsin player was the # 5 ranked transfer apparently asked for $1.2 Million and didn’t get it .

    He averaged 16.5 points in the Big 10 last season

    Why would Duke pay $1MM to a very fine
    HS player with great skills and fairly slow feet who hasn’t played a college game ?

    Duke IS one of the last Power 5 schools who are
    trying to win the NCAA with 5 star freshman
    so I guess it’s possible .

    Notes – any attempt at changing the NIL college arena more to the schools / NCAA / Coaches liking is DOA and the Supreme Court made that clear to those interested parties

  5. Merlin

    How’s this going to work out for high school coaches?

  6. jonnyv

    M, the RUMOR (from a family that goes to Lutheran) is that the family was paid 1M for all the kids to go to Duke. Apparently the entire family are quite the stars on the court. Again, this is a RUMOR from another family whose kids go to school there. Clearly a very large grain of salt. And logistically I don’t know how much it makes sense. But if you are Duke, why not gamble on a family to persuade the kids? Hard to say. I don’t follow HS basketball at all and this is what I was told at a party a few weeks ago during March Madness.

    T, I am with you that if you accept NIL money over a certain amount your scholarship should be immediately revoked and must be re-assigned to another student. No arguments from me here.

    Frankly, I also think that the professional organizations need to eliminate age requirements for their leagues. There is no reason a player should HAVE to attend college before going into the NFL or NBA. I think this would help weed out some of the big names, maybe make college athletics a little more amateur. But frankly, I think that boat has sailed. NIL and the transfer portal are a part of our lives and I don’t have an issue with either. Students should be free to go wherever they think they are best suited without penalty.

  7. Tuerqas

    >Frankly, I also think that the professional organizations need to eliminate age requirements for their leagues. There is no reason a player should HAVE to attend college before going into the NFL or NBA.

    I believe the reason for the age limit is that typically males are not considered fully mature until between 21 and 25or later and getting hit at the pro level can often enough end up in injuries that can permanently damage them and their ability to reach full normal maturation.
    I have thought about whether there could be a market for NBA/NFL ‘minor leagues’. Every club has a minor league club that much of their practice squads and 18 year old talent that has no business or interest in College (outside of girls and their sport). Probably not realistic, but it I have thought about that.

  8. Tuerqas

    >Just because it’s being done somewhere else already doesn’t mean Wisconsin needs to be an early adopter.

    Well Merlin, if WI made it into law tomorrow, we would still already be the 32 state to approve it so I think the phrase ‘early adopter’ is already past:).

    And as much as I dislike the idea, being in the minority of States NOT approving it is just going to be sucking Wisconsin’s top talent to other States that do offer it. For a million dollars, I would strongly consider moving to another state so my kids could play HS sports, and I would loudly exclaim that the reason was so my kids could be better prepared for College sports! Oh, and to get a better education at this better school…that had an extra million dollars to spend on their sports programs.
    NEW SCHOOL REFERENDUM: Let’s raise money for our sports programs. How does 50 million sound for new sports facilities…and a few other considerations. What do you say, for the next 400 hundred years or so?

  9. Merlin

    Nice to see that the WIAA punted the issue into the future. Nothing is lost by taking the time to get it right, although I honestly expected greed to win here. I’d love to read transcripts of the discussions from the insider’s perspective. They obviously have concerns.

  10. jonnyv

    T. I would rather see a minor league or some sort of professional red-shirting than have students come in for a single year to college. I think the only sport is the NFL that age would really matter. And they don’t really have an age limit, just “3 years out of HS”. We used to see HS kids go right to the NBA.

    I don’t love that these semi-professional athletes are taking up scholarships for people who actually want to get an education. But ultimately it is a free market. And we all know that colleges want them there, even for a year. Successful college athletics draws students and more money.

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