• Extra Points
  • Posts
  • What’s the real reason behind Virginia’s new landmark NIL bill?

What’s the real reason behind Virginia’s new landmark NIL bill?

Plus: An update on EA Sports NIL opt-ins and more:

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

I don’t normally pay as much attention to the daily state-level discussion of NIL legislation, since nobody has bothered to enforce any of those laws. But a law signed in Virginia yesterday has the potential to be very significant…

What’s the real reason behind Virginia’s new landmark NIL bill?

On Thursday morning, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a new NIL bill into law. Unlike other state NIL legislation passed over the last year, this bill significantly deviates from existing NCAA policy. Namely, it allows schools to directly pay athletes for their NIL rights. Starting July 1, any school in the state can enter into an NIL deal with an athlete (like say, for a billboard marketing campaign, or a series of PSAs), instead of the deal needing to be structured via a third party. Current NCAA bylaws, as of this moment, do not permit schools to directly enter into NIL deals with their athletes.

The bill, according to David Teel of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was sponsored by Del. Terry Austin (R-Botetourt), and was primarily authored by Jason Baum, UVA’s deputy athletic director for legal and regulatory affairs. It’s not uncommon for university personnel to be highly involved in the drafting of statehouse NIL legislation.

There are several ways a university could potentially utilize this flexibility. Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock reportedly suggested “using Tech’s on-campus ACC Network Studio for NIL activities”, or “partnering with Tech’s MMR partner, Playfly Sports.” Earlier this week, I wrote about how a few SEC schools were using their team-specific streaming apps for collective fundraising and NIL purposes.

But as of right this second, I don’t expect every Virginia institution to jump in with both feet on truckloads of direct NIL contracts.

For one, there’s plenty of legal and administrative uncertainty. The NCAA has previously told schools that they expect member institutions to comply with NCAA policies, even if state law allows schools to do something else. If the NCAA doesn’t change their own policy by July, it could face another court battle with Virginia institutions.

But it isn’t just the NCAA that’s worth considering. The Department of Education has not issued clear guidance as to what a school’s obligations would be under Title IX for direct athlete NIL contracts, and it’s possible no clarity will come unless there is litigation. Virginia Tech, hypothetically, deciding to sign 20 football players and no women to marketing deals could invite a costly and embarrassing lawsuit.

Here’s my educated guess. I believe Virginia and Virginia Tech are very much willing to find ways to directly compensate athletes for NIL campaigns…but they’re really hoping that this new law expediates the legislative process in other states (Illinois, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Nebraska and others are considering similar legislation that could become more permissive now that Virginia’s law was signed), which would force the NCAA to make a national policy change.

Failing that, perhaps Virginia’s law could serve as an accelerant towards national legislation. It might also accidentally serve as an accelerant towards an employment designation (which Virginia and Virginia Tech don’t want), but even that would provide more order and predictability than the status quo.

Maybe UVA drops a 10 million dollar bag in July with a billboard campaign. I doubt it, but I guess that’s possible. What I suspect it’s more likely that this law serves to expediate more conversations that have been happening for months….as college sports slowly, but surly, lurches towards a more centralized and more professionalized compensation system.

Here’s an update on the math behind the EA Sports College Football 25 licensing program

Earlier this week, One Team Partners (the company responsible for facilitating the EA Sports College Football 25 licensing program), tweeted this update:

The 12,300 number surprised many fans. After all, 85 players per roster x 131 teams (all FBS programs minus Army, Navy and Air Force, whose athletes cannot be compensated for use of the NIL) is 11,135. Why is OTP tweeting about a number much higher than that?

The answer is because the EA Sports licensing agreement goes out to all athletes on the roster, not just scholarship football players. Right in the initial proposal sent from OneTeam to athletes, it states that “opting in does not guarantee your NIL will be included in the game.”

Memo sent from OTP to athletes on Feb 22 with instructions on how to opt-in

I’ve texted a few P4 and high level mid-major school officials about what their participation numbers are looking like, and every single official I’ve spoken to has told me their school has more than 100 players who have opted into the program (which would include walk-ons).

If you’re curious, industry folks have told me that some of the schools with the highest percentage of athletes who have opted in include Florida, BYU, Texas Tech, Boise State, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia Southern and Wisconsin. There is a confidence in the industry that north of 95% of scholarship athletes will sign the paperwork before April 30.

For those curious, I’m also told that the 12,300 number does not include any ex-athletes whose likenesses might be included in Ultimate Team mode or a Legends more. I’m told that athletes who are not current FBS football players will have a different licensing agreement.

A last note on all of this that may be of interest…the exact language of the proposed contracts asks athletes to grant rights to appear in “…any and all versions and modes, updates, downloadable content, expansion packs, and microtransaction content.”

I’ve asked around, and I’ve been told that does not include any depiction in Madden or any EA sports product not directly affiliated with EA Sports College Football 25.

I am not making any announcements here about whether users can import rosters to Madden like they could in previous editions, nor am I reporting anything specific about gameplay functions. I’m just explaining what that contract says, and what has been clarified to me from industry experts.

Here’s what else I wrote this week:

  • Like I mentioned earlier, I chatted with the folks behind many team-specific streaming apps (like HOGS+) to hear about how they’re starting to broadcast more live events, directly work with collectives, and grow in a new way:

  • I talked with Dr. Gary Miller, the president at the University of Akron, to learn about how the school uses athletics for student recruitment and retention, what kind of students the school is actually trying to recruit, and how he sees the transfer portal and increased roster transience as a different kind of threat to college athletics.

  • I wrote about Auburn’s switch from UA to Nike, ambitious facility projects at D-II West Florida, and shared an editorial from a Dartmouth basketball player who didn’t want to unionize.

Premium subscribers get access to every single newsletter I write (which includes a bunch of stuff on the video game, conference realignment, sports business, academic research and more), AND access to Athletic Director Simulator 4000. Reader subscriptions account for over 90% of our annual revenue, so if you want to support Extra Points and help keep this thing going, a paid subscription is the best way to do it.

You might also enjoy reading some of these other newsletters

(Extra Points does earn a commission for every free subscription to these publications)

RNDM Travel NewsletterVisiting America, one town at a time

If you’d like to buy ads on Extra Points OR in ADS4000, good news! Drop me a line at [email protected]. If you have news tips or FOIAs you want to share, I’m at [email protected]. Otherwise, I’m at [email protected], @MattBrownEP on Twitter, @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram, and @MattBrown on Bluesky. We’re also now on Facebook! 

Join the conversation

or to participate.