CHAMPAIGN — Trent Frazier will be “officially open for business” come July 1.
“Champaign-Urbana what’s up?!” the Illinois senior guard also tweeted late Monday morning. “Any and all companies reach out if you are interested in partnering!”
Frazier included the hashtag “#CASH” along with a GIF of rapper Offset clutching stacks of $100 dollar bills.
College athletics is approaching a new era. Frazier’s tweet came just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a 9-0 decision in Alston vs. NCAA that invalidated part of the NCAA’s amateurism rules.
Just part, though. The case presented a narrow focus.
Monday’s Supreme Court decision simply upheld the previous ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The NCAA can now no longer ban colleges from providing student-athletes with education-related benefits, which include free laptops or paid post-graduate internships.
“The national debate about amateurism in college sports is important,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the Supreme Court’s 9-0 opinion, quoting the ninth circuit’s ruling. “But our task as appellate judges is not to resolve it.
“Nor could we. Our task is simply to review the district court judgment through the appropriate lens of antitrust law.”
That doesn’t mean more change isn’t coming to college athletics when it relates to the limits the NCAA has put on what benefits or compensation athletes can receive. Seven states have passed name, image and likeness legislation that will take effect July 1. Twelve more states have passed similar legislation that will go into effect in the next four years.
Illinois is in position join the first group.
An NIL bill — co-sponsored by a pair of former Big Ten football players turned state representatives in Kam Buckner (D-Chicago) and Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) — is on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk awaiting his signature. Should he sign it, athletes in the state of Illinois could receive compensation based on their name, image and likeness come July 1.
And Frazier is ready.
So is the Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. A cross-department working group including representatives for student-athlete development, branding and communications and compliance have been working for more than a year to develop an NIL plan. The new legislation gives that group some direction. The NIL bill, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune, would prohibit athletes from endorsing brands related to sports betting, tobacco, marijuana, vaping and adult entertainment.
“Now that we have the state law, we’re able to to put a little more meat on the bone around what that could look like, understanding it could require another pivot if the NCAA were to get involved or the federal government were to get involved,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said last week during his annual media roundtable. “We’ve put together a cross-functional group that has been developing our plans and will be engaging with our student-athletes, our coaches and our parents (this) week in a series of Zoom calls to just talk about the dynamic and give them some initial information on what assets we’ll be able to provide them and what resources in terms of support as we head into this new space.”
Whitman’s hope was for a “national solution” for the NIL question in college athletics by the NCAA. A vote was scheduled for January, but was delayed and has yet not been revisited.
“We wanted to give these national solutions an opportunity dating back 18-24 months ago, but as July 1 has approached it became apparent that if we didn’t take some action that our student-athletes would be at a disadvantage and our athletic program would be disadvantaged,” Whitman said. “There are a number of different options I think available to (the NCAA) as we head into the July 1 window, but they’ve had their opportunity.”
Whitman said his preference — a position he said most of his athletic director colleagues across the country hold — is still for that national solution when it comes to NIL.
That could be the NCAA changing its own bylaws or the federal government passing legislation of its own to create what Whitman said was as even a playing field as possible.
A concurring opinion written solely by Justice Brett Kavanaugh in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s decision on Alston vs. NCAA called into question the NCAA’s remaining compensation rules. That would appear to at least keep a national NIL solution on the front burner.
Monday’s decision in Alston vs. NCAA opens the door, in Kavanaugh’s opinion, to view the remaining compensation rules in relation to antitrust laws.
Regardless, athletes with rights to their name, image and likeness is about to become the new normal for college athletics.
“We’re excited about that,” Whitman said. “It is a little unsettling, just the uncertainty of it. We don’t know exactly how all of it will work out, but I think we’re in the same position that everybody is. This is an entirely new frontier. This is one of the biggest changes to come to college athletics in modern memory.
“How we will navigate that will require some time, but we’ve got a lot of efforts ongoing here integrally to provide assistance, guidance, monitoring — all the things that are going to be necessary in this new landscape. We’ll move into it with our student-athletes and we’ll help them as we can and we will kind of hold on tight as we see how this ride goes in the future.”