By Tim Gardner
The North Carolina State Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would debilitate the authority of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association in various ways, including blocking its vote to allow athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.
The North Carolina High School Athletics Association (NCHSAA) Board of Directors had approved a proposal Wednesday to adopt a name, image and likeness (NIL) system, permitting student-athletes to get money beginning on July 1st from appearances, autographs, camps and clinics, group licensing deals, social media, product endorsements and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are assets that have been tokenized via a blockchain.
But under provisions in Senate Bill 636, only the State Board of Education would be allowed to set rules governing NIL agreements for high school athletes. The NCHSAA has been under scrutiny from some state lawmakers for the past few years and the wording was added to the bill on Wednesday after the NCHSAA was criticized for taking a vote the same day as the State Senate to allow NIL deals.
Currently, 27 of the 51 high school associations across the nation allows high school athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness. Like North Carolina, Virginia also both voted on Wednesday to adopt NIL policies this summer, raising the number to 29. Tennessee is the only other state bordering North Carolina to allow NIL for high school athletes. Georgia and South Carolina do not.
NCHSAA officials have said that the average NIL deal for high school athletes in other states ranged between $60 and $120.
But some state legislators, coaches and school officials are reportedly concerned about recruiting issues and team camaraderie created by NIL with some players potentially making money and others not.
As per the NCHSAA’s NIL regulations, student-athletes would not be allowed to be affiliated with products like adult entertainment, gambling, controlled drug substances, alcohol and/or tobacco products to receive financial profits.
School personnel, including coaches and other athletics staff members, would not be permitted to use NIL to recruit athletes or encourage higher enrollment. Assisting with deals and acting as a student-athlete’s agent or marketing representative by school personnel and or athletics staff members would also be disallowed.
Athletes and their parents, coaches, athletics directors and principals, would be required to complete a National Federation of High Schools Association (NFHS) NIL Course each year. Additionally, all NIL payments would be required to be reported to the school and the NCHSAA.
If a student-athlete violated any of those NIL rules, he or she would be ineligible from any sports competition for 60 calendar days.
“There were two words that were talked about often by our board as we considered the NIL policy and even prior to that as we had a committee working to bring a policy forward for consideration; those two words were opportunity and training,” NCHSAA President Rob Jackson said from the organization’s offices in Chapel Hill prior to the State Senate blocking adoption of the NIL system. “Certainly, we had a conversation around wanting to ensure our students have the opportunity to utilize their name, image and likeness because it is theirs and we don’t want to deny students opportunities before them. In fact, we want to give them every opportunity as we possibly can. That second piece, training, is extremely important. We have to train superintendents, we have to train principals, we have to train athletic directors and coaches but we also have to train parents because this is a new frontier for all of us.”
Under other terms of Senate Bill 636, the NCHSAA would reduce fees for member schools, take less money from state tournament games and agree to have annual audits performed of the organization. The legislation would also prohibit the NCHSAA from soliciting grant funding and sponsorships from third parties, and restrict it in providing scholarships or grants to players and schools.
The bill was approved in a 30-20 vote straight along partisan lines. All Republicans voted for the bill and all Democrats voted against it.
30 votes are sufficient to override any potential by veto by North Carolina Democrat Governor Roy Cooper.
The legislation now goes to the State House for its members’ consideration and votes.
State House Bill 91 was previously proposed that would have potentially disbanded the NCHSAA. But eventually state lawmakers and NCHSAA officials agreed on a version of the bill with a “memorandum of understanding” with the State Board of Education that allows the NCHSAA to continue in its role of being the governing body of public high school athletics in the state. That agreement became effective last July and is in effect for four years (until July, 2026).
However, an amendment added to the bill on Wednesday would modify the state’s memorandum of understanding so that the state superintendent could terminate it with six months’ notice. Currently, one year’s notice is legally required.
On Monday, state lawmakers removed language in the bill that would have required high school sports to remain in four classifications, based on factors such as enrollment size. A recent vote by North Carolina high schools passed to realign from four to seven classifications beginning in the 2025-2026 school year.
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