COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – After years of navigating a hodgepodge of state laws and changing NCAA policies, athletes at Ohio State and other colleges may soon have federal clarity on profiting off the use of their name, image and likeness.

Two Ohio representatives, Michael Carey (R, OH-15) and Greg Landsman (D, OH-1) have introduced an updated version of the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, a bill to establish federal NIL policies. First proposed in 2021, the bill bars colleges and universities from limiting or prohibiting student-athletes’ entrance into NIL contracts and establishes a publicly available clearinghouse where major contracts must be disclosed.

“Conflicting NIL rules at the state level created an uneven playing field for universities and student-athletes,” Carey, whose district includes most of Franklin County, said in a news release Wednesday. “Through this legislation, we will grant student athletes the right to capitalize off their own name, image, likeness, while preserving the integrity of college sports for current and future college athletes.”

Many components of the bill mirror Ohio’s NIL policies under Gov. Mike DeWine’s 2021 executive order, including the prohibition on universities restricting financial aid and athletic eligibility due to NIL contracts. 

Significantly, however, the federal law would grant athletes more freedom in deciding whether to accept endorsements – allowing them to notify their universities’ athletic programs of agreements after the fact. Ohio law requires student-athletes to disclose proposed contracts to their university to identify potential conflicts before signing.

Under the bill, student-athletes must notify their university’s athletic director within 72 hours of entering into an agreement or before the next athletic event they can participate in – whichever is earliest. Universities cannot make student-athletes ineligible based on their NIL agreements, but they can disallow athletes from wearing branded clothing or gear during athletic competitions or university-sponsored athletic events.

The law requires the Federal Trade Commission to establish a clearinghouse for endorsement contracts between student-athletes and agents. Student-athletes must disclose all contracts worth more than $500 to the FTC within 72 hours of the agreement. The clearinghouse shall notify universities of contract disclosures and make such disclosures publicly available on a “regular basis.”

The proposal reaffirms the NCAA’s interim policy preventing university athletic departments or their employees from negotiating, drafting or funding any NIL deals. It also bars athletic boosters – individuals or organizations providing “substantial financial assistance or services” to athletic programs – from directly or indirectly offering funds or an endorsement to prospective student-athletes in exchange for their enrollment at a specific university.

Additionally, the FTC clearinghouse must annually report how many complaints were filed for potential NIL regulation violations and summarize investigations and sanctions issued under the act. Eventually, the FTC must establish a registration program for athlete agents.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has already given the proposed legislation his approval.

“At Ohio State, our NIL programming assists student-athletes as they capitalize on their hard work, generate income for necessary expenses, and learn marketing and financial literacy skills. However, NIL laws and regulations remain inconsistent from state to state,” Smith said in the release. “Representative Carey’s work to bring forth consistent, national NIL regulations will further protect student athletes and bring order to NIL policies and procedures nationwide.”

The act creates the Covered Athletic Organization Commission, a 13-member advisory body that will make recommendations to Congress and athletic organizations on the implementation of NIL rules, development of a certification process for athlete agents, and the establishment of a dispute resolution process for conflicts between student-athletes and their universities. The commission must include at least two current or former student-athletes.