TCU Athletic Director Jeremiah Donati testified before Congress on Wednesday as the government considers intervening with name, image, and likeness practices across college sports.
Donati was one of several to appear as witnesses at a House Small Business Committee hearing to determine how to regulate deals made with student-athletes allowing them to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL), which became legal in 2021.
“We now find ourselves in a wild, wild West environment across college athletics with little accountability,” Donati told Congress, per The Dallas Morning News. “Sadly, there are countless stories of student-athletes and their families being exploited, deceived and harmed for others’ personal gain in these NIL pursuits.”
Allowing players to profit from using their name, image, and likeness has encouraged them to build their personal brand. However, the NCAA has not done much to clarify the vague guidelines.
With little to no regulation, players could be opened up to the possibility of being taken advantage of, as Donati mentioned.
Additionally, some schools have a significant financial advantage over others, a concern brought up by Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) in the hearing, per the DMN.
This paves the way for the practice to become “pay-for-play” rather than a way for student-athletes to grow their interests as intended. Players deciding where to attend based on who can offer them the most money or the best deal can put other institutions immediately out of the running.
Many of these deals involve collectives, which are independent of the university but often serve to help fund NIL contracts by pooling donations from the school’s notable alumni, donors, and influencers.
But concerns have been raised about collectives, including that they might direct more funds to football players for instance, and overlook other athletes. If this comes at a detriment to female sports, it could be considered a Title IX issue, a sports business analyst and attorney previously told the DMN.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) expressed the same concern at Wednesday’s hearing, the DMN reported.
Still, Donati told lawmakers that collectives can be beneficial to student-athletes, such as by guiding them in navigating NIL deals.
“Collectives are here because we’ve allowed them to be here, and I think there are a number of them that do it the right way,” he told Congress.
“I’m proud to say that the Flying T Club, which is the collective that supports TCU Athletics, does it the right way. We work with them. We have a lot of communication with them to understand what they’re trying to accomplish and how they’re trying to support our student-athletes, but they know this is not a sham, and their responsibility is to make sure that real NIL activities are happening.”
The Flying T Club was created last June and has raised over $3 million for NIL deals involving student-athletes in football, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball while emphasizing the importance of community service.
Legislation to increase regulation of NIL deals has been drafted by lawmakers, including one from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and one from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA). But aside from an apparent agreement that there is a need for more uniform practices, it is not yet clear what those regulations will look like.