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Georgia HS Athletic Association hints at NIL policy change: ‘Should be prepared’ in near future

Photo credit: GHSA

Big changes may be coming for high school athletes in the state of Georgia.

According to the minutes of a Jan. 11 board meeting for the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines held discussion regarding name, image and likeness, stating that he “felt Georgia should be prepared” to change their policy in the near future. Additionally, Dr. Hines informed the board that the GHSA office would prepare a proposal to be presented to the State Executive Committee (SEC) at their meeting in April.

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To date, 26 state athletic associations, including the District of Columbia, have reformed their policy to allow NIL. Currently, according to the GHSA constitution, an athlete forfeits their amateur status by:

  1. Competing for money or other monetary compensations except for reasonable allowances for travel, meals, and lodging. NOTE: Accepting expense allowances authorized by the United States Olympic Committee for Olympic Development Programs is acceptable for GHSA students. 
  2. Receiving any award or prize of monetary value which has not been approved by the GHSA.
  3. Capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts with monetary value except college scholarships.
  4. Signing a professional playing contract in any sport, or hiring an agent to manage his/her athletic career.

Sports and entertainment lawyer David McGriff spoke with The NIL Deal, mentioning that potential reform in Georgia would result in a huge win for advocates of athlete compensation.

“NIL is a restoration of rights previously stripped from high school and college athletes,” McGriff explained. “The NCAA was essentially forced to restore such rights. Now the majority of states have also enacted laws enabling high school students to monetize their NIL. Georgia could be an important domino to fall in the Southeast region of the country that has been reluctant to join the trend.”

Georgia is commonly known as a “hotbed state” for athletes — especially in football — with 34 four-star or better recruits, 24 of which ranked in the top 300 according to 247Sports. Among the states that disallow NIL, Texas, Florida, Alabama and North Carolina, all rank among the top states for most highly rated football recruits.

Mit Winter, attorney at Kennyhertz Perry, told The NIL Deal that approved legislation in Georgia could lead not just officials, but coaches in other states, to push for policy change.

“If Georgia’s High School Athletic Association does amend its NIL rule I think we’ll see a push for other states in the South that are known as hotbeds of football recruiting to do the same,” Winter said. “Not only is it a fairness issue, but I think other states — and football coaches in those states — will want to prevent high school athletes and their families from considering moving to Georgia or other nearby states that allow high school athletes to monetize their NILs.”

In September 2022, The NIL Deal detailed the story of T.A. Cunningham, one of the top defensive lineman recruits in the country, who transferred to Los Alamitos High School in California in order to pursue NIL to support his family following their eviction from their Georgia home. 

Cunningham’s life was put on hold, as the company who agreed to facilitate his deals failed to hold up their side of the bargain, leaving Cunningham homeless and without proper paperwork declaring his transfer making him ineligible to join Los Alamitos’ football team at the time of transfer.

While his legal issue was resolved, his story acted as a reminder of the ugly side of NIL. If the GHSA is able to change their policy, it would mean the end of stories such as this one.

RELATED: NFHS addresses growing high school NIL landscape with educational course

“Georgia’s current law prohibiting ‘capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts with monetary value except college scholarships’ is overreaching and puts high school athletes in a worse position then their non-athlete counterparts,” McGriff said. “There was never an adequate justification for these rules and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to continue to justify the rules in today’s climate.”

As for how long it would take for other states to follow suit if Georgia does change its policy is to be seen, but according to McGriff, at the very least, state athletic associations will quickly start thinking about it.

“I think these states will have to start seriously considering adjusting to the landscape. How quickly that occurs is a different conversation.”