Alright Mississippi, Let’s Not Forget About Title IX

Mississippi’s Law to “Facilitate” NIL Deals

On April 20, 2022, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed into law two changes to the state’s Name, Image, and Likeness law.[1]

First, junior colleges and institutions in Mississippi can play a more active role in guiding their college athletes through the NIL landscape. Id. Specifically, Senate Bill 2690[2] now allows institutions to communicate with third parties who seek to work with college athletes.[3]

“b) A postsecondary educational institution may facilitate opportunities for student-athletes to engage with third parties interested in entering into name, image, and likeness agreements, and may communicate with third parties interested in providing name, image, and likeness agreements to student-athletes.” Senate Bill 2690 Section (3)(b)[4]

Before the signing of Bill 2690, institutions were not allowed to communicate with third parties in any way regarding college athletes’ NIL endeavors.[5] Those in support of the bill, namely, institution administrators, state that the change is necessary to provide proper guidance to athletes while also helping them identify what opportunities align with state law and those that may run afoul. Id.

Second, now athletes in the state of Mississippi can enter NIL deals after they verbally commit to a junior college or institution within the state of Mississippi. Id. This change allows for earlier agreement between the college athletes and prospective NIL opportunities, because, previously, athletes in Mississippi had to wait until they officially signed their letter of intent before agreeing to NIL deals. Id.

Senate Bill 2690 now also requires those who seek to engage with college athletes in NIL agreements add clear language that warns the athlete of possible loss of eligibility should the deal itself violate the law. Id.

STARKVILLE, MS – SEPTEMBER 21: Now, institutions in Mississippi can facilitate NIL opportunities for athletes as soon as athletes verbally commit. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Title IX Concerns

Institutions in Mississippi now can “facilitate opportunities for student-athletes to engage with third parties interested in entering into name, image, and likeness agreements, and may communicate with third parties interested in providing name, image, and likeness agreements to student-athletes.”[6]  In doing so, institutions should be careful of potential Title IX violations.

Title IX contains specific provisions governing athletic programs.[7] Specifically, if an institution offers an athletic program, it must provide equal athletic opportunities for male and female participants. Id. Title IX compliance is monitored through the Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). When determining whether equal opportunities are available, OCR considers whether an institution is effectively accommodating the athletic interests of all its participants. Id. Further, OCR will assess their respective athletic departments using the following factors to determine whether male and female athletes are provided with equal benefits, opportunities, and treatment: equipment and supplies; game and practice times; travel and per diem allowances; coaching and academic tutoring; assignment and compensation of coaches and tutors; locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; medical and training facilities and services; housing and dining facilities and services; and publicity. Id. 

In addition, Title IX regulations specify that if an institution provides its students athletic financial assistance (traditionally scholarships), it must provide reasonable opportunities for such awards for members of each sex in substantial proportion to the number of students of each sex participating in intercollegiate athletics. Id.

Currently, OCR does not have a standard to assess whether institutions are facilitating equal NIL, or compensation, opportunities to both male and female athletes. Nonetheless, with the NIL landscape continuing to evolve, institutions in Mississippi would likely be safe in implementing programs that facilitate equal opportunities for NIL engagement for both their male and female athletes.

Institutions should be careful to equally facilitate NIL opportunities for each of their male AND female athletes. Photo Credit

[1]https://www.djournal.com/sports/college/mississippi-nil-changes-aimed-at-keeping-state-schools-competitive-in-recruiting/article_b39d7660-e9c7-52e2-a136-d64e715baa00.html

[2] https://legiscan.com/MS/text/SB2690/id/2560653/Mississippi-2022-SB2690-Enrolled.html

[3]https://www.djournal.com/sports/college/mississippi-nil-changes-aimed-at-keeping-state-schools-competitive-in-recruiting/article_b39d7660-e9c7-52e2-a136-d64e715baa00.html

[4] https://legiscan.com/MS/text/SB2690/id/2560653/Mississippi-2022-SB2690-Enrolled.html

[5]https://www.djournal.com/sports/college/mississippi-nil-changes-aimed-at-keeping-state-schools-competitive-in-recruiting/article_b39d7660-e9c7-52e2-a136-d64e715baa00.html

[6] https://legiscan.com/MS/text/SB2690/id/2560653/Mississippi-2022-SB2690-Enrolled.html

[7] https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/frontpage/pro-students/issues/sex-issue04.html

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President of the Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Before law school, I coached college football at the University of Rochester for five seasons. I am excited to take these experiences, along with a legal education to make an impact on the ever-evolving landscape of college athletics. Thanks for reading our posts!

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