Buckeyes coach Day lends support of ‘NIL’ bill as it passes Ohio Senate

By: - June 17, 2021 12:50 am

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day is seen testifying in favor of Senate Bill 187 on June 15. Photo courtesy The Ohio Channel.

Ohio State football head coach Ryan Day is fully supportive of a bill to let college athletes make money off of personal sponsorship deals.

It’s fair to the players and it could set them up for the years after their playing days are over. But mostly, with the dam breaking on the notion of college amateurism, Day wants action taken at the Ohio Statehouse as a means of keeping his Buckeyes competitive.

The lawmakers on Capitol Square who meet just three miles from Ohio Stadium wouldn’t dare let the team up north hold an advantage, would they?

The Ohio Senate offered unanimous, bipartisan support to Senate Bill 187 on Wednesday, the next step toward allowing college athletes to profit off their “name, image and likeness.”

Lawmakers (and those like Coach Day) want this “NIL” legislation enacted in time for the upcoming fall athletic season.

SB 187 was approved with an emergency clause, meaning it would not need to wait the required 90 days after a governor’s signature to be enacted. House members will need to act quickly, and similarly pass it with an emergency clause.

Under SB 187, colleges and universities would still offer athletic scholarships to students as they do now. But athletes would have the chance to sign endorsement deals and profit off their own likeness without losing their eligibility status to play.

Before the vote, lawmakers made two changes to the bill from what was originally introduced. Members took out a provision requiring students with an endorsement deal to notify their school at least 15 days before their contract began. They also clarified a provision dealing with personal sponsorships that may conflict with those already in place at a student’s athletics program.

“The example I would give is, if the school is a Nike school and the student gets an Adidas contract, they should be able to have that,” state Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, the bill’s sponsor, explained. “But they’re not going to be able to wear Adidas during a practice or during a media session that is an official team activity on or off campus.”

This bill would apply to all Ohio colleges and universities, including NCAA Division I schools such as Kent State University. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The bill proposes a major departure from the present college athletics landscape. Student athletes are held to strict rules enforcing amateurism, all while their schools rake in billions of dollars annually and coaches themselves are unencumbered by any rules limiting their ability to sign endorsement deals. (Alabama football coach Nick Saban, as one example, frequently appears in commercials promoting insurance provider Aflac.)

Things are changing rapidly. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has reportedly considered sweeping changes to its amateurism rules, pressured in part by states enacting their own NIL laws in the meantime.

In testifying to a Senate committee on Tuesday, Day noted there are seven states with NIL laws set to go into effect on July 1. This list includes other football powerhouse states such as Alabama and Georgia. Another is Nebraska, whose Cornhuskers football team in Lincoln competes against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Conference.

A number of other states have NIL laws coming in the next few years, including three with schools in the Big Ten Conference. (Among them, Michigan.) 

The fear is that a star high school athlete might choose to play for the rival Wolverines instead of the Buckeyes if doing so meant opening themselves up to lucrative endorsement deals in Michigan that would still be prohibited in Ohio.

“It would really, severely damage us in recruiting going forward,” Day told lawmakers.

“If state legislation is not enacted,” the coach warned, “higher education institutions in Ohio will likely struggle to attract student-athletes who will suddenly have the opportunity to better capitalize on their name, image, and likeness at an out of state institution.”

What was once auxiliary to students’ athletic commitments is rapidly becoming a key component of their collegiate experience.

Day noted OSU’s new “THE Platform,” which he described as “an educational program that will provide a unique opportunity for our student-athletes to maximize their brand and exposure. The program will include live consultation sessions with industry leaders and information about brand building, monetization, and financial literacy.”

State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, is the main sponsor of SB 187.

It was only a decade ago that Day’s predecessor, Coach Jim Tressel, got in hot water for overseeing a Buckeyes program in which players traded autographs and other memorabilia for free tattoos. One goal of NIL legislation is to bring such negotiations out of the shadows and allow players to earn money in a way that makes under-the-table deals unnecessary.

Tressel, now the president of Youngstown State University, supports the bill, Antani said.

Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, asked Day about other athletes besides the superstars in high-profile sports: How would this legislation impact them as students unlikely to get major endorsement deals from the likes of Under Armour or Gatorade?

Day noted the student would have a chance to capitalize on their personal talents besides just athletics. 

Earlier this year, The Columbus Dispatch highlighted the example of former Buckeyes basketball player Mark Titus who operated a blog during his college career. He was forbidden from making any money off blog sponsorships or advertising in order to be compliant with the amateurism rules.  

The proposed changes would allow student athletes to pursue these other avenues for profit.



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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.