A New NIL Bill Has Been Signed in Virginia. Here’s How it Impacts the Hoos

April 18, 2024 By Jeff White, jwhite@virginia.edu Jeff White, jwhite@virginia.edu

In Richmond, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin ceremonially signed a bill Thursday that will significantly change the way colleges and universities in this state can operate with regard to name, image and likeness of student-athletes. 

Among those in attendance at the Patrick Henry Building was a delegation from the University of Virginia, including Director of Athletics Carla Williams, head football coach Tony Elliott and head volleyball coach Shannon Wells.

Sponsored by state Del. Terry Austin, the bill, which goes into effect July 1, will allow UVA and its peer institutions to be considerably more involved in helping their student-athletes navigate NIL opportunities.

Moreover, a university will be allowed to directly compensate student-athletes for the use of their NIL, if its governing body – in UVA’s case, the Board of Visitors – approves policies and procedures that govern NIL.

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Williams said UVA Athletics will continue to work closely with and assist with fundraising for its official collective, Cav Futures.

“The law provides much needed and practical flexibility,” Williams said, “but we haven’t made any (final) decisions about which provisions within the law we’ll actually activate. We’ll continue to support Cav Futures, we’ll continue to discuss our options internally, we’ll monitor the environment, we’ll talk with our coaches, our student-athletes, and we’ll make a decision that’s best for UVA.”

The bill also stipulates student fees are not allowed to be used to pay student-athletes for their NIL.

In supporting the bill, Williams said, UVA’s primary focus “was making sure we level the playing field so our student-athletes could fully maximize NIL opportunities.”

Other states have allowed their universities more freedom in the NIL realm, and that put schools in Virginia at a potential disadvantage. “Having different state laws and different applications of NCAA rules across the country creates competitive inequities,” Williams said, “which is obviously untenable.”

To those who suggest the Commonwealth of Virginia is making a complicated situation worse, she added, “I would say that if this state law gets us closer to a federal solution or a national solution, then it’ll be worthwhile. That’s best for our industry.”

UVA volleyball coach Shannon Wells, director of athletics Carla Williams, football coach Tony Elliott and deputy athletics director for legal and regulatory affairs Jason Baum

UVA volleyball coach Shannon Wells, Director of Athletics Carla Williams, football coach Tony Elliott and deputy athletics director for legal and regulatory affairs Jason Baum were on site in Richmond on Thursday. (UVA Athletics photo)

UVA played a leading role in the development of the new legislation. Jason Baum, Virginia’s deputy athletics director for legal and regulatory affairs, helped draft the bill.

The process started, Williams said, because there “was concern among state legislators that colleges and universities in Virginia were being disadvantaged by an inconsistent and uncertain system.”

State legislators approached UVA about updating the state’s existing NIL law, Williams said. “After consulting with the University and the University’s government relations staff, and also consulting with our colleagues at other universities in Virginia, UVA agreed to serve as the primary contact for expertise and technical support for the development of the amendment.”

In 2021, the NCAA began allowing student-athletes to be compensated through NIL opportunities. However, not long after, the NCAA started imposing additional restrictions on NIL.

Since then, Baum said, UVA has been examining “the landscape of college athletics and NIL. And so we’ve been looking at all 50 states with regard to what’s out there (concerning NIL), and we’ve been monitoring the industry. We’ve been monitoring the state legislatures.”

Legislatures in such states as Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Texas have been amending “their state laws,” Baum said, “and so we’ve been very mindful of everything that’s been going on, and we’ve been thinking about what could also be beneficial for this state law. So, we incorporated some of those aspects.”

Elliott said the bill “gives us an opportunity to have a conversation (with student-athletes) without feeling like you’re breaking a rule or crossing a line that you’re not supposed to cross, and it allows us to be able to speak openly.

Tony Elliot watches player maneuver
Elliott is entering his third season as UVA’s head football coach. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

“I think one of the things that we’ve got to understand is that this is all new to the student-athletes and this brings more challenges that we need to be able to speak to. They need financial literacy, education, contract reviews that they need help and support (with). So, it just allows us to be able to speak openly and freely and educate. I think that’s our role as coaches in the industry that we’re in: to educate on all different fronts.”

Williams thanked Youngkin and Austin “and other state legislators for ensuring student-athletes in Virginia have every opportunity to take full advantage of NIL. Ultimately, and most importantly, we have an opportunity to fully support our student-athletes and coaches in NIL activities.”

Williams remains hopeful that Congress will establish uniform NIL regulations every state would have to follow, “but we are also aware we have been hoping for that for (several) years now,” she said. “Nonetheless, we will continue to hope that happens.”

Williams, who played basketball at the University of Georgia, considers herself a product of the NCAA’s benefits, “so it’s really important that we as an industry get this right,” she said. “And so, my hope is that we can play a role in getting us closer to a solution that modernizes it and preserves it at the same time.”

Have addition questions on the NIL Bill? See the FAQ page on VirginiaSports.com.

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