OHSAA wants to be proactive on player endorsements

By Jim Naveau - [email protected]



BLUFFTON — Ohio high schools will have the opportunity to vote on 14 changes to Ohio High School Athletic Association’s bylaws and constitution in early May, but one of the issues being considered stands out above all the others.

If approved by the principals of the 817 high schools that are OHSAA members, high school athletes in Ohio would be able to receive money for the use of their name, image and likeness, similar to what college athletes have been able to do in the last year.

That would be a dramatic departure from longtime OHSAA rules, which say an athlete forfeits amateur status and interscholastic athletic eligibility if they capitalize on their fame by receiving money and merchandise or services of value based in whole or in part on the notoriety received through their athletic skills and achievements.

OHSAA executive director Doug Ute and director of compliance Kristin Ronai described the details of the proposed change and explained why this is being voted on now to northwest Ohio school administrators and athletic directors on Tuesday at The Centre in Bluffton. It was the fifth of six similar meetings around the state in the last three weeks.

“This is a big one. We want to get out ahead of it to shape it the way that our member schools want and not some outside group who would come in and put in something that would not be good for our group of schools,” Ute said, alluding to the possibility of state government becoming involved in the issue.

“We’re going to be eating dinner for sure on name, image and likeness. We have an opportunity to be in the kitchen and bake whatever we’re going to be eating. My whole point is if somebody in Columbus gets in there and makes the menu we might not like what we’re having for dinner,” he said.

Ute also said he thinks the OHSAA might not fare well in court if someone decided to sue over name, image and likeness restrictions.

Eight states currently allow high school athletes to use their name, image and likeness in endorsement deals.

Ute thinks only a small number of athletes would get endorsement deals.

“In my 37 years in education in Ohio as a coach, athletic director, high school principal and superintendent I’m not sure I’ve come across any athlete at a school where I was employed that really would have benefited from an NIL contract. And I was in Newark, Ohio, where boys and girls went to Division I schools, and big ones. I can’t think of any athlete from my past who would have done this. So we’re talking about a small number of kids.

“I remember driving down the road last year and hearing about the colleges and thinking, ‘Man, every college athlete is going to get paid.’ But less than one percent of NCAA athletes received any compensation last year,” he said.

Ronai said, “Based on the recent Supreme Court case NCAA vs. Alston and the kind of warning the judge gave in that case as well as legislative intervention around the country, including here in Ohio, we really felt compelled to try to get ahead of this issue, trying to allow the member schools to make the rules on this as opposed to legislators crafting them for us.”

NCAA vs. Alston is the case which opened the door to college athletes being able to receive name, image and likeness money.

She said the OHSAA proposal being voted on contains six major limitations:

• Athletes cannot use the name, logo, mascot, trademarks or uniforms of any OHSAA school in promotions using their names.

• Athletes cannot engage in any name, image and likeness activity during official team activities which include, but are not limited to games, scrimmages, team appearances photograph sessions and other team activities on or off school grounds.

• Agreements will not allow an athlete to display the sponsors’ product or otherwise advertise for the sponsor during official team activities.

• Athletes who sign name, image and likeness agreements cannot provide money, merchandise, services or other benefits directly to their school or team.

• Athletes cannot receive compensation for promoting casinos, gambling, drug use or tobacco use.

• Athletes receiving name, image and likeness benefits shall disclose the details of the contract to the school where they are enrolled. Each school is encouraged to designate a specific employee to whom this information should be reported. The OHSAA will review agreements if asked to do so by schools.

Before the OHSAA presentation the Northwest District Athletic Board gave out Mac Morrison Awards to several people for lifetime service, including former New Bremen coach and athletic director Gary Jones and a Media Service Award to the late Aaron (Matthews) Molaski.


By Jim Naveau

[email protected]

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