COLUMBUS – Doug Ute, the executive director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, believes name, image and likeness (NIL) is coming to Ohio.
He’s just not certain when or in what form.
“I think it will happen,” Ute told members of the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association during a recent meeting at the OHSAA office in Columbus. “It’s the way of the world.”
NIL refers to an athletes’ ability to profit off themselves. NIL gives athletes the right to publicity that ordinary citizens already have.
“Is it fair that a high school athlete has earning potential (and can’t)?” Ute asked. “It’s a different world that it was 10, 20 years ago. It’s a different world because of social media. It’s a big deal when you have a lot of followers.”
Ute speculated LeBron James could have landed a $50 million deal from Nike back in his prep days at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Ohio member schools “overwhelmingly” voted down NIL.
There are nine states that have passed NIL rules for their high school athletes and Ute said, “I have not seen an issue at all.”
But he doesn’t expect Ohio to vote again any time soon, hoping to see how NIL at the collegiate level plays out.
“Seems like in college, it (NIL) keeps redefining itself,” Ute said. “But it’s something we have to continue to look at. We need to be aware of any opportunity for our kids and how you protect the amateurism of high school athletics.”
More Ohio prep sports topics
NIL was just one of many topics Ute and OHSAA director of media relations Tim Stried discussed with media present at the meeting.
• Girls wrestling and boys volleyball are now OHSAA championship sports.
Ute said neither girls wrestling nor boys volleyball “move the needle” financially, but the OHSAA decided the opportunity for its athletes was too good to pass on.
“Our schools aren’t ready for it but they need to get ready,” Ute said, noting practice space, additional coaches and money is needed for schools to run these sports.
While a venue to hold the state volleyball tournament is still being discussed, Ute said girls wrestling championship matches will be held at the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State the same time as the boys individual state tournament. The girls regional tournament will be held the Sunday after the boys regionals but at a different location.
• Ute said by moving the boys state basketball tournament to Dayton and the state football championship games back to Canton the state will save $1.2 million over three years from what was spent previously on those sports.
Ute said there was pushback from people in northern Ohio about Dayton as a championship site but, in addition to UD Arena being a great basketball facility, Ute reminds those northern folks about football being in Canton.
• A story published in mid-July said football officials in northeast Ohio are threatening to boycott Week 1 of the 2022 season unless their pay is increased. The request was for pay to be at least $80 a game and increase $10 per year until it is $100 per game.
With a shortage of officials in general, those officials who are working seem to have an advantage in this negotiation. You can’t have a game without officials.
However, Ute said an increase in pay for officials may be too costly for some schools. He was told by one athletic director if officials in all sports were given a $5 increase per game, it would add $14,000 to school’s budget.
• The OHSAA is looking to lower the cost of post-season tournament games for students by $1 to help encourage more students to attend those games.
• As participation numbers decrease, Ute said it’s probably time to “look at” eight-man football. He said former OHSAA executive director Dan Ross started that process a number of years ago, including a scheduled trip to Oklahoma to discuss with officials there the eight-man game, but Ross became ill and the issue was off the table.
Now, Ute said, it’s “time to look, at least to see what’s out there. If you don’t offer it, they’re going somewhere else.”
• There has been talk about adding a division to track and field. Ute said there are currently three divisions for track and field. As with all sports, there are schools that have one or two students more than a lower division allows, thus bumping that school to a higher division and, seemingly, better competition.
“If we had 10 divisions, there’d be somebody saying, ‘We’re two kids over’.”
When it comes to additional divisions for track and field or any sport at this time, “discussions go on and on but we’ve not gotten any further than talking in a room like this,” Ute said.