Oregon Draws NCAA Scrutiny for Third-Party NIL Program

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The NCAA has sought information from the University of Oregon about its relationship to a third-party NIL program, the school confirmed to Sportico.

In a statement, Oregon athletics spokesman Jimmy Stanton said the association has also requested information regarding “our NIL policies and process (and) apps that we use for education and reporting.” Stanton added that Oregon is complying with the request.

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The NCAA declined to comment, citing confidentiality rules established by its members.

On Dec. 8, NCAA President Mark Emmert told a group of reporters that “a number” of schools were being investigated for NIL infractions, though he declined to name any of them at the time.

In September, Oregon athletics supporters and alumni formed an entity called Division Street to provide branding and marketing assistance to Oregon athletes that would “elevate their NIL opportunities—while allowing them to focus on school and their sport.”

Division Street’s backers include Nike co-founder and Ducks uber-booster Phil Knight, and it is being led by former Nike vice presidents Rosemary St. Clair and Rudy Chapa. A Division Street spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Pac-12 school is at least the third FBS program whose NIL offerings have drawn scrutiny from NCAA investigators. As Sportico first reported, college sports’ governing body initiated reviews of team-wide NIL deals for football players at BYU and Miami.

The core issue in each of these arrangements is the NCAA’s interim guidance that NIL money going to athletes cannot amount to pay-for-play or “impermissible inducements.”

Since July 1, when state-based NIL rules went into effect across the country, the line between legitimate marketing deals and direct payoffs has seemed to grow blurrier by the day. This week, for example, Alabama legislators are moving to do away with that state’s NIL law, which would give its schools added flexibility to compete for recruits.

For now, the NCAA’s NIL fact-finding has stopped short of a formal infractions investigation, and there is an open question as to whether the association would want to risk additional litigation and public backlash by punishing a school over setups that are seen to improve the livelihoods of athletes.

UO has been at the national NIL vanguard, launching an on-campus program in October, dubbed Oregon Accelerator, which is designed to help athletes tap into promotional resources from the university’s business and journalism schools. That in-house initiative received financial backing from Barbara Blangiara, an Oregon alumnus and executive at Fox Sports.