Sen. Tommy Tuberville discusses proposed NIL Bill

Published 12:35 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville is co-sponsoring a federal bill that will soon be introduced to his colleagues in Congress that would bring legislation in regards to name, image and likeness (NIL) in college athletics. On Tuesday, Tubberville spoke with The Messenger about this proposed bill.

After a Supreme Court ruling over NIL in 2021, the NCAA passed a policy to allow for compensation for college athletes in regards to NIL. Due partly to the fact that various states have passed their own NIL laws, things have become chaotic in college athletics as a result.

Tuberville is in his first term as a U.S. Senator after a 40-year coaching career in football. A Camden, Ark., native, Tuberville played college football at Southern Arkansas University and began coaching at Hermitage High School in Arkansas in 1976 as an assistant coach. He took over the head-coaching job at Hermitage in 1978 before making the jump to the college ranks in 1980.

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Tuberville served an assistant coach at Arkansas State from 1980 until 1984 and was an assistant coach at Miami (Fla.) from 1986 until 1993, including a year as defensive coordinator. He took over as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 1994 and accepted his first head-coaching job at Ole Miss in 1995. In 1999, Tuberville made his move to Alabama when he accepted the job as head coach at Auburn University, where he enjoyed the most success of his career from 1999 until 2008.

Following Tuberville’s run at Auburn, he coached for three years at Texas Tech and three more at Cincinnati before retiring in 2016. Tuberville entered the political world in 2020, when he ran for his seat in the U.S. Senate, defeating incumbent Democrat Doug Jones.

Tuberville is sponsoring the potential NIL legislation with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), who played college football at West Virginia University and is a childhood friend of Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban.

“Something has to be done,” Tuberville said of NIL. “This process we have now is out of control and it’s going to destroy college athletics as we know it if we don’t get some of control on it.”

Tuberville said that he and Manchin will officially introduce the bill at a press conference in July and will look to gain bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress to get it passed. Earlier this month, Sports Illustrated obtained – and released – a draft of the proposed bill.

“We’re trying to put five basic points out there that every state – all 50 states – have to go by and then turn it over to the NCAA and let them carry on from there,” Tuberville said of the current draft.

Among those points in the bill, it would prohibit athletes from striking an NIL deal until they are a semester into their college careers. Additionally, the bill would require athletes to disclose the contract to their respective schools within 30 days of entering into it, including compensation amounts and any other contract particulars. NIL collectives and agents would be required to register with the NCAA and disclose all NIL deals with the NCAA.

NIL contracts must be signed by each party, must outline the scope and timeline of the work an athlete is required to perform, states the compensation and has a duration or end and conforms with an NCAA-developed standard contract template. As mentioned, an athlete must also be enrolled and have completed at least one semester of coursework before entering into an NIL deal.

According to the proposed bill, schools will also be able to limit athletes from entering into NIL deals with certain persons or entities, including adult entertainment and sexually suggestive products, alcohol products, casinos, tobacco and marijuana products, pharmaceuticals, drug paraphernalia and weapons. Additionally, schools may not enter into a contract with any entity that it prohibits an athlete from signing an NIL deal with. Another restriction would prohibit athletes from wearing particular clothing as a part of an NIL deal while also wearing school athletic gear.

Tuberville maintains that the legislation is about making things fair but also making sure things don’t further spiral out of control in regards to college athletics.

“We aren’t in the athletic business up in Washington D.C. but we are about making it fair when it comes to all 50 states doing the same thing,” Tuberville emphasized.

One aspect of the draft legislation that has received much media attention is a provision that calls for the creation of a trust to be used to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses related to injuries sustained while playing college sports. This trust would be funded through revenue that is generated from certain NCAA tournaments – like the College Football Playoff or NCAA Basketball Tournament – with those events being required to deposit at least one percent of its proceeds into the trust. The medical coverage would last for eight years after the athlete’s eligibility expires or until they turn 28 years old.

“Health Care is a big part of it,” Tuberville said. “I believe men and women should have some sort of coverage – whether it’s orthopedic or when it comes to concussion syndrome type of coverage – for a certain amount of time after these athletes graduate. We can’t cover all health care costs but we can cover the parts that are caused through athletics.”

Another point in the proposed bill would prohibit recruiting inducements; meaning offering recruits NIL deals as a means to recruit them to a specific school. It also would empower the NCAA to investigate and audit compliance with the law, while also giving it authority to distribute penalties, which could include revoking the licenses to participate in NIL. The NCAA could also refer violations to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for potential further action.

“It’s gotten to the point that that the NCAA doesn’t have teeth anymore when it comes to maintaining all of the sports,” Tuberville said. “They can probably control a few of their sports but I don’t think they’re doing a good job when it comes to football and basketball. We’re trying to help all sports, not just a few, and all of the athletes, not just a few. We’re trying to put some common sense back into the recruiting process, as well.”

While this law would give the NCAA the much-needed “teeth” that Tuberville speaks of, it also will call for the NCAA to be held accountable. If the NCAA fails to comply and carry out its duties as a part of the bill, the FTC can revoke its tax-exempt status.

This draft of the bill is the result of more than a year of work, which saw Tuberville and Manchin meet with leaders across college athletics.

“This is a text and bill that we’re putting out that was not just done by me and Joe Manchin, but with input from presidents, athletic directors and coaches from across the country,” said Tuberville. “It’s a year-long piece of work, it hasn’t just happened overnight and I think we have a good chance of helping. I don’t want to hurt, I don’t want to put more regulations out than is needed. We want to make sure we’re giving opportunities to women, not just the men. All of this is talking about funding and money but we want to put some reality back into college sports in terms of recruiting and transferring.”

Tuberville emphasizes that he isn’t against athletes making money but says some stability and consistency has to be brought to it.

“I’m all for the kids making money but I’m not for destroying college sports as we know it – or the education process – by making all this money,” he said. “I think we can work out both and make it work. We just have to understand that this is a law, not a rule. This isn’t about the money to me, if a kid makes $100 million I’m all for it, but the Supreme Court did not say this should affect and destroy all of sports as we know it.”

To pass through Congress and signed into law, the bill will have to earn bipartisan support, which Tuberville says is the next step in the process.

“We’ll have a press conference and Joe (Manchin) and I will take it to the floor and get the other senators to read the bill and their staffs to read the bill, and get their thoughts on it,” said Tuberville. “Things could change (in the bill) before a vote but you have to start somewhere. We’re trying to make it better because what we have right now is not acceptable. Hopefully we can get back to reality.

“After we have the press conference we’ll get comments from every angle on it and then it’s our job to take it through the commerce committee. We have some people on the commerce committee that are very aware of what we’re doing with this. It’s a process that will be drawn out but it’s a sales point now.”