BATON ROUGE, La. — As SEC coaches push for federal regulation regarding name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes, LSU coach Brian Kelly said Thursday that the need for action is urgent.
“College athletics is at a crossroads if this doesn’t get fixed,” Kelly told ESPN.
Kelly was among a contingent of SEC coaches and administrators who visited Washington, D.C., earlier this month to lobby for legislation to help rein in what has seemed at times like a free-for-all since the NCAA allowed athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness in 2021. Different states have imposed different NIL regulations, while the NCAA has largely steered clear of sweeping regulation.
“We needed to do something,” Kelly said of the D.C. visit. “There needed to be some publicity behind it. There needed to be at least an education at the committee level where they had more than just what California is trying to do.”
Kelly questioned California’s proposed bill, which would require profit sharing with athletes on revenue-producing teams, asking “Where’s Title IX in all this? Where’s Division II sports? Where’s Division III sports?”
If every state is tailoring bills to their own self-interest rather than the health of college athletics as a whole, Kelly said, “That’s not going to work.”
The proposed California legislation, named the College Athlete Protection Act, was introduced in January and calls for major money-generating college sports teams to create a fund that would pay players a share of their teams’ annual revenue, a portion of which would be held in a trust for players until they complete their degree. The bill allows schools to reallocate funds, if necessary, to make sure they are not violating Title IX rules.
Kelly said he felt that the legislators he spoke with in Congress were receptive and understood “the message that there’s a trickle-down effect.”
Kelly focused on the current NIL structure and how it threatens programs that don’t produce revenue or have well-funded donors. It’s a common refrain of coaches, who say the divide between the haves and have-nots is widening.
“Look, I think, more than anything else, they hear it now — that college sports is in jeopardy,” Kelly said. “It’s not just football. I didn’t have to be there. [Alabama coach Nick Saban] didn’t have to be there. We’ll be OK. Yeah. At the end of the day, the big schools, the big oil companies, they all survive.”
A handful of bills have been under discussion, including the College Sports NIL Clearinghouse Act of 2023 sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham. But given the partisan gridlock in D.C. and a general election coming up in 2024, there is reason to question the feasibility of an NIL bill coming to a vote anytime soon.
Kelly said he was hopeful for a bill that could garner bipartisan support.
“We’ll know by August,” he said. “If there’s nothing on the floor or in committee by the end of July, then we’ll know that they can’t produce something.”
Information from ESPN’s Dan Murphy was used in this report.
LSU coach Brian Kelly heightens push for federal NIL help