Nil chance that LHSAA’s NIL stance wasn’t rushed

One week ago today, the LHSAA’s executive committee and the organization’s director, Eddie Bonine, dropped a bombshell by producing a “positioning statement” allowing Louisiana high school student-athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness.

“Education. Not regulation,” Bonine told the media. For some, this raised the question whether or not the association, which governs Louisiana high school athletics, has lost its collective mind. The sudden education thrust concerning NIL comes after a presentation by Eccker Sports last week to the LHSAA executive committee, made of up principals from around the state. This company will partner with the LHSAA to educate principals and athletic directors with online training.

Last week’s statement says Eccker Sports has 60 years of experience in the sports industry, but the website – ecckersports.com – makes no mention of what the company has been doing for the first 59. The website is solely devoted to NIL, which only came to the forefront on July 1 when college athletes received the NIL green light from the NCAA after some states around the nation passed laws forcing its hand.

Money grab? Too early to tell, but it is always prudent to follow the money on “partnerships.”

Who educated the LHSAA executive committee and Bonine? Eccker Sports?

Was nothing learned from watching the NCAA struggle to keep up with NIL, and the lack of regulation, during football season? Did they miss the news about the University of Texas’ “Pancake Factory,” which starting this fall will give every full scholarship offensive lineman at the University of Texas $50,000 per year for their NIL?

This foundation – and the “Pancake Factory” – has little to do with being able to use the names, image, and likenesses of the offensive linemen, and everything to do with attracting the best offensive linemen in the nation into burnt orange to help the UT fat cats’ beloved Longhorns to win championships.

Think there might be deep-pocketed boosters at high schools across the state who are pooling their resources to attract athletes to form the best high school team money can buy?

You can take it to the bank, and that’s ironic, because that’s exactly where some Louisiana middle school athletes are headed.

The LHSAA leadership obviously missed Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin warning with NIL and the transfer portal, the NCAA has created “free agency” in college football. Many other high-profile coaches, even with more resources than Kiffin, have voiced concerns.

Despite the NCAA’s inevitable NIL growing pains, at least universities have compliance departments tasked with assuring all NCAA rules and regulations are followed.

Who will be the “compliance department” at the high school level? Invariably, this will fall to athletic directors, who are already under the gun to certify the tiniest details on every document from physicals to waivers, and everything between, for each student-athlete on campus.

The same athletic directors must verify an athlete lives where they say they live when a new arrival shows up at the school wanting to participate in sports.

More questions.

Why would the LHSAA come out with this statement at this time, without taking it before the principals during their annual meeting in January?

I think I know the answer.

It seems the LHSAA is quite proud of getting out “ahead” of NIL.

“There is a lot to NIL and it’s a moving target that we need to stay on top of,” Bonine was quoted in the release.

Over half of all state associations (26) in the United States got “on top” of NIL by prohibiting student-athletes in their state from accepting benefits. I guess those associations saw what they needed from the disruptive impact NIL has had on the NCAA landscape.

Like the nickname of the LHSAA’s first commissioner – T.H. “Muddy” Waters – there are more questions than answers with the association’s one-week old statement on NIL.

One thing is clear: the divide between the LHSAA leadership and those who coach the student-athletes in Louisiana has never been wider.

 

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