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FHSAA schedules workshop to further discuss high school NIL

GAINESVILLE — Craig Damon, the executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, quite succinctly summed up his concerns about the future implementation of paying high school student-athletes for their Name, Image and Likeness.

“Unknowns” was the reply when asked what worries him about high school NIL payouts, which were the subject of a polarizing discussion during Monday’s lengthy FHSAA’s board of directors meeting.

There are many components to the FHSAA proposal to revise a number of amendments regarding NIL within the FHSAA’s existing bylaws on amateurism. The association is trying to get in front of what it believes to be inevitable NIL legislation coming down from Florida lawmakers, potentially within the next legislative session.

“When I talk to other states, and there are 30 states that are doing it, but they have their own sets of rules and regulations they deal with,” Damon said. “Our biggest concern is transfers. Will this increase the already large number of transfers we have in the state of Florida. That’s definitely a fear.”

The FHSAA can’t begin to police the wild number of transfers already taking place in the state. An estimated 2,500 athletes statewide transferring during this school year.

A major fear is that putting rules in place to limit the NIL impact on transfers — like students being unable to accept NIL money within the first year of their transfer — would bring on potential lawsuits. Athletes and their families have already taken to the courts to get NIL restrictions lessened — and they are winning.

A Tennessee court this month ruled in favor of freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava, who had been declared in violation of NCAA NIL rules by being offered NIL incentives while the University of Tennessee coaching staff was recruiting him. For now, as of Feb. 5, Iamaleava is in the clear.

Damon said that have waded into NIL have been great about sharing their policies and experiences.

“Like for example, New Jersey, they put a cap on how much money you can make through NIL,” Damon said. “To me, how can you put a cap on somebody’s value. So seeing if any of them have been sued or what challenges they have had are things that we want to figure out in these next few weeks.”

The FHSAA will continue to gather information and present findings in a NIL workshop to be held April 21, a day before the association’s next board meeting.

“The major concern is just being able to manage it,” said Masters Academy athletic director Trevor Berryhill, a board member. “So if we’re going to do this NIL, we should just get rid of the recruiting policy, because it’s hard enough to manage that. This policy actually reflects the recruiting policy and the impermissible benefit rule.”

Berryhill said NIL could reflect on his school’s potential to raise money. Wording in the proposed bylaws would eliminate any business from being an NIL sponsor if it also sponsors a school’s fundraising efforts.

“What’s not being said right now, and I will bring it up at the next meeting, is let’s say I raise $100K a year from sponsors. None of those people can support NIL and continue to be my sponsors for my school,” Berryhill said. “So then I’m missing out on $100K a year, and, in theory that $100K could go to the student athletes. That doesn’t help me.

“The boundaries have to start with the transfers. In my opinion, you should not be able to get an NIL deal if you transfer,” Berryhill said. “I don’t see how it [can face lawsuits] because we have a rule in place. The University of Tennessee didn’t follow the policy and they got sanctions. They found a loophole in that and they fought.”

That is the FHSAA’s challenge, to fill as many conceivable loopholes as possible.

“I think when we put in parameters, then everyone has to stay inside those parameters,” Berryhill said. “We know not everybody follows the rules and they are always going to try and push it.”

Among those pushing the envelope are so-called “street agents,” influencers who are not officially connected to any school but could act as the go-betweens to point schools to a certain team when NIL bargaining commences.

“We gotta put some boundaries around it, and try our best,” Berryhill said, “Then when it comes up, like we always do, we’ll just have to deal with it one thing at a time.”

Shot-clock vote tabled

The association was scheduled to vote on implementing a 35-second shot-clock for both boys and girls basketball. But after much discussion, that proposal was tabled again until the April meeting. Currently, jt’s optional for teams to use a shot clock if opponents are willing. If voted in this year, the 35-second rule could be mandatory in the 2026-27 school year.

Chris Hays covers high school and college football, as well as college football recruiting. He can be found on X @OS_ChrisHays or on Instagram @OS_ChrisHays. He can be reached via email at chays@orlanodsentinel.com.