Why Oklahoma’s new NIL law gives creates recruiting advantage

Why Oklahoma's new NIL law gives creates recruiting advantage

Rep. Jon Echols served as Senate Bill 840’s sponsor in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

The sweeping state bill was enacted Thursday, as the House and Senate overrode Gov. Kevin Stitt’s earlier veto. When Echols argued on behalf of the legislation in April, he urged his fellow legislators to get Oklahoma back on a level NIL playing field.

Turns out, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa are going to be operating with a significant advantage because of the law. The move could not have come at a better time for the Sooners, who will join the SEC in 2024.

The new state law prohibits the NCAA from coming down on institutions involving protected NIL activities. Arguably more important, collectives are now allowed to compensate current and prospective athletes, which was previously a prohibition. Athletic departments are now legally allowed to throw their power behind preferred collectives, too.

“Every coach, no matter if they’re at OU, OSU or TU, is happy that they overrode the veto,” an in-state coach told On3. “This helps us now show recruits and players already on the team that we’re serious about supporting NIL.”

What the NCAA’s course of action will be is unclear. Oklahoma is not the first state to enact legislation that limits college athletics’ governing body. Lawmakers in Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Texas have sponsored or passed these types of bills. But the Cowboys and Sooners are two of college football’s biggest brands. There’s little doubt each will begin using this new Oklahoma law to their advantage.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the support of our state leaders and their help in ensuring Oklahoma can remain competitive in the ever-changing world of college athletics,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement to On3. “Now, we at OU – as well as universities across the state – can provide even greater guidance and support to our student-athletes as they work to benefit from the use of their own Name, Image and Likeness.”

A source close to the NIL landscape at Oklahoma told On3 the Sooners have some “catching up” to do before they leave for the SEC. That could change quickly, however, as the Oklahoma athletic department is expected to fully endorse a collective. The Crimson and Cream collective run by SANIL currently uses the school’s colors through a partnership with Learfield. Now coaches like Brent Venables and Porter Moser can openly discuss about which collectives fans should donate to.

Back in February, Texas A&M announced the 12th Man Foundation had created the 12th Man+ Fund to provide NIL opportunities. The entity appears to be acting on behalf of the institution, which is against the NCAA’s policy. Texas A&M is believed to be the first school whose official athletic booster organization is directly fundraising for NIL opportunities.

Oklahoma is on track to soon launch a similar organization, a source indicated to On3. The odds are slim of NCAA president Charlie Baker wanting to go after an institution in a state where the law protects universities. He may use this recent string of state laws as proof the NCAA needs an antitrust exemption.

“If you can offer ticket points to a booster, you’re going to raise more money,” an SEC collective operator who will soon be competing against Oklahoma told On3. “So, it would give them an advantage. I’m not sure how much. All we can give is special access to a couple of coaches. These donors who have been giving for a long time, they’re used to receiving a real tangible return on investment.”

If there is one thing this bill does, it provides athletic departments and collectives a sigh of relief. These organizations can suddenly reorganize and create a plan for sustainability. The name of the game in college football has become NIL. For much of the last 22 months, Oklahoma was operating at a disadvantage.

A year ago, most prospects were being offered seven-figure packages. The landscape has since settled down, with some market values actually being hammered out. It’s far from a finished product. Meanwhile, the NCAA has pleaded with Capitol Hill to enact federal legislation.

Oklahoma won’t have to wait on Washington, D.C., for change. The state now has a new law that places its universities in a sturdy position. The law also allows for any agent to represent athletes. Before representation was limited to an attorney or an agent who was certified.

Is that the safest option for athletes? That remains to be seen. But it does create an environment where players can feel comfortable working closely with collectives. Across the country, agents are constantly chatting with football and basketball staff members and collective operators about recruits and NIL packages.

Thursday’s news eliminated any threat Oklahoma institutions felt lurking.

“It’s going to prevent the NCAA from doing anything,” an agent representing multiple top-100 prospects in the 2024 recruiting class told On3. “They already don’t want to step in and do anything. The NCAA is screwed. It’s easier to go into these places now. There’s so much grey area right now with the way everything is set up. If you can make more bills like this, where it’s a little more black and white, and you know schools and collectives will feel more comfortable having those conversations even before guys are on campus, it makes things easier. Everyone is doing it.

“But some schools, it is a free for all. Another school, they’re not going to have that conversation with you. Having collectives be able to take a breath adds that layer of protection.”

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