SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey: Only Congress Can Fix NIL Nightmare

In a spirited address during the league’s annual media days at the Grand Hyatt, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey called for urgent action from Congress to establish a national standard for name, image, and likeness regulations in college athletics.

He emphasized that only Congress possesses the authority to effectively address the challenges faced by the NCAA, colleges, and student-athletes regarding NIL issues.

“The reality is, only Congress can fully address the challenges facing college athletics,” Sankey asserted. He pointed out that neither the NCAA, courts, individual states, nor conferences could single-handedly resolve these complex matters.

He further stressed the importance of bipartisan cooperation, stating that certain issues like educational opportunities, equitable chances for male and female athletes, success in the Olympic Games, and various support systems should not be subjected to partisan disputes.

Sankey recounted having personally delivered the same message to Congress members in Washington the previous month. While acknowledging the positive impact NIL has had on young athletes, he also expressed concern over instances of misuse and unresolved matters related to NIL agreements.

“Some stories told and others not told of promises made but not fulfilled, of inducements offered but not provided, of empty commitments, and NIL agreements that created more questions than provided answers and other behaviors in this space that rightly caused concern,” he revealed.

According to Sankey, no state has taken definitive action to enforce its own NIL laws. Additionally, states’ independent regulations are inhibiting the NCAA and conferences from establishing reasonable and consistent NIL standards. College athletes, as well as those within the SEC, have expressed their desire for uniformity in NIL policies across the nation.

“Our student-athletes want to know their competitors on the opposite line of scrimmage are subject to and governed by the same rules and policies by which they are governed,” Sankey emphasized.

The commissioner also called for the establishment of agent registration and clearer definitions of NIL-related activities. He expressed the need for standardized language and protocols to ensure a fair and regulated environment for collegiate athletes navigating NIL opportunities.

Amid his emphasis on NIL, Sankey announced that the SEC’s media days would be held in Dallas the following year, coinciding with the addition of Oklahoma and Texas to the conference.

The move to Dallas is part of the SEC’s preparation for becoming a 16-team conference in 2024.

Regarding the possibility of further conference expansion, Sankey indicated that there have been discussions, but the SEC is currently content with its 16-team configuration. He cautioned against hasty decisions on expansion and emphasized that any future changes must be carefully considered.

“I’ve watched others message about, ‘We’re not done yet,'” he said. “I just don’t think that’s healthy.”

Sankey’s call for Congress to address the NIL issue comes at a critical juncture for college athletics, where a national standard could potentially bring much-needed clarity and fairness to athletes navigating the evolving landscape of name, image, and likeness opportunities.

What do you think needs to be done to straighten out the NIL mess?