Lack of education underscores high school NIL market

The Douglass Trojans and Weatherford Eagles prepare for the tipoff of the Class 4A state championship at State Fair Arena. The Trojans defeated the Eagles 48-44 and secured the school’s 11th boys basketball state championship.

Although student-athletes are excited about the future of NIL, high school administrators and officials are stressing the need for further education to address key concerns.

Following guidelines released by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association this past fall, Oklahoma high school student-athletes are now allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness as long as such deals are not associated with their school or based on an athlete’s performance.

Although the NIL scene is new to Oklahomans, KFOR’s Kimberly Quarry-Thompson reports that two deals have been signed, including a deal between a Piedmont softball player and Moore bats.

“The majority of NIL deals that are going to happen with the majority of the children in our state are going to be social media driven. How many likes and followers do you have, and that compensation will never be at the level those guys are experiencing,” Mike Whaley, the association’s associate director, said.

“We’ve seen the one young lady from Piedmont get a bat deal, I understand that, but she’s not raking in a whole bunch of stuff from that. She’s getting a couple of bats,” Whaley added.

High school officials were forced to provide guidance following the emergence of the industry at the collegiate level. Although NIL provides an avenue for student-athletes to be compensated for their athletic abilities, students, parents and administrators across the state are still learning how to facilitate these opportunities.

“We don’t know all there is to know about NIL, so we’re trying to educate as much as anything else,” Whaley said. “That was our board’s approach to the guidelines. Let’s educate our group first before we start worrying about violations or sanctions.”

To ease the transition for parents and educators statewide, the association has a consulting agreement with the Bedford Agency. Led by CEO Bryan Bedford, the agency offers education and guidance concerning NIL and recruiting endeavors.

“Most student-athletes don’t even know where to start,” Bedford  said. “The school districts are just now putting investments in place to educate coaches and parents on what they can and can’t do, so I think people have been a little gun shy,” he added.

“With it being new, there is still a lot to dig into,” Norman North athletic director Dusty Porch said. “Regulation is tough. Everybody is just kind of testing the waters with it, but I think you will see it continually grow here.”

Other athletic directors, such as Deer Creek’s Bill Bays, are afraid the changing athletic landscape may affect the focus of their student-athletes.

“My concern is not about who gets an NIL deal or how much money or exposure they get for it, it’s really about maintaining the mindset of high school athletics,” Bays said. “I just hope we’re not burdening our young people by giving them more real life stuff to address than generations that preceded them.”

“Everything is kind of evolving into a situation where kids are having to become more mature and responsible,” Porch claimed. “Hopefully we can guide them into a situation where we don’t pull them away from enjoying the game and focusing on those friendships in high school.”