Gov. Wolf and Penn State Celebrate NIL Legislation, New Opportunities and Staying Competitive

Written By Katie Kohler on July 13, 2021 - Last Updated on May 25, 2023
NIL legislation brings new opportunities to athletes.

It’s a whole new ball game for student athletes at colleges in Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill in late June that allows student athletes at PA colleges to earn compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL). On Monday morning, he spoke in more detail about the groundbreaking legislation at a press conference at Beaver Stadium.

The new legislation opens the floodgates for college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. However, they can not be associated with certain businesses including gambling companies and casinos.

Pennsylvania new NIL law

Act 26 of 2021 amends the Public School Code. Pennsylvania’s NIL legislation allows athletes at Pennsylvania colleges to earn money from endorsements, sponsorships and appearances without it hindering their eligibility.

Key points of NIL legislation

  • Name image and likeness compensation must be for equal market value.
  • Student athletes can not receive payment for playing a sport (no pay to play).
  • A person who produces a college team jersey, a college video game (i.e. EA Sports NCAA Football), or college team trading cards for profit, must make a royalty payment to each athlete whose NIL is used.
  • A student-athlete can obtain professional representation from agents, financial advisors or legal representation. in relation to NIL matters.
  • Earning compensation from their NIL may not affect their scholarship eligibility.
  • Athletes can not use trademarks or logos from colleges while profiting from their NIL.
  • Schools can also prohibit a student athlete’s compensation from activities they deem to conflict with “existing institutional sponsorship arrangements” or “institutional values.”

College athletes can not profit off their NIL through partnerships with businesses such as:

  • Adult entertainment products and services
  • Alcohol products
  • Casinos and gambling which includes sports betting, the lottery, betting in connection with video games and online games.
  • Tobacco an electronic smoking products
  • Prescription pharmaceuticals
  • Controlled dangerous substances

Student-athletes must report contracts to their schools, and schools and athletic leagues can’t be required to help student-athletes earn compensation.

How NIL legislation came to PA

In late June, it was clear the NCAA was going to get rid of restrictions which prevented student athletes from profiting off their NIL.

Senator Jake Corman (a ’93 Penn State grad and president pro tempore of the state Senate) got a call from the Penn State government affairs office about the issue. With the end of budget season fast approaching, Corman wondered if something could be put together quickly.

Corman explained during the press conference:

“They reached out to a higher power and the next evening I got a call from Coach (James) Franklin. I don’t get many late night calls from Coach Franklin and I thought he wanted to talk about the offense this year, but he wanted to talk about this issue. I said, ‘throw the ball to (Jahan) Dotson and everything will be fine.’”

Corman said the next day, Scott Martin, the chair of the Senate education committee, told him he was “way out ahead” on this issue and was already working on it with Sen. Anthony H. Williams.

On June 30, Wolf signed the bill legalizing NIL compensation.

NIL is a “new chapter in the history of athletics in Pennsylvania”

Gov. Wolf’s press conference on Monday morning represented a celebratory lap to commemorate what Wolf called “a new chapter in the history of athletics here in Pennsylvania.” College administrators who spoke at the press conference touted the opportunities for athletes to develop entrepreneurial skills. With over two dozen other states allowing student athletes to cash in on their NIL, it keeps PA colleges competitive when it comes to recruiting.

Gov. Wolf commented on NIL:

“For too long, college athletes were banned from earning compensation for endorsements. Now our athletes will no longer be forced to choose between fair compensation and continuing to play. This also helps ensure that Pennsylvania colleges and universities remain competitive and attractive. It will give top athletes a guarantee they will be treated fairly in Pennsylvania. It’s a big change for college and student athletes. This step toward fairness for athletes aligns with changes taking place in other states and at the national level within the NCAA.”

Penn State top admins comment on NIL

Penn State University is the largest college in the state with an enrollment of about 50,000. It has over 800 varsity student athletes.

The press conference gave Penn State’s top administrators a chance to speak in more detail about NIL.

Penn State President Eric Barron said:

“Our student athletes are an impressive group and it’s our responsibility to do everything possible to ensure their success beyond college. Name, image and likeness is an important step in realizing that goal. We appreciate that Pennsylvania has enacted a law that gives student athletes the ability to earn compensation based on their NIL. It will be beneficial to student athletes as well as the institutions they attend for a number of reasons. NIL provides a unique opportunity to build entrepreneurial skills and business savvy.

“NIL is. a giant stride forward. It will provide tremendous opportunity for our student athletes and it will avoid a competitive disadvantage for the Nittany Lions given that more than two dozen states have enacted NIL legislation. After years of discussion and debate, it’s clear NIL rights are necessary, reasonable and fair. NIL will protect the integrity of the game and provide our student athletes with much-deserved opportunities to financially benefit from their hard work. This is a win-win.”

Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour added

“Our students now have an opportunity to capitalize on their name, image and likeness, and engage in entrepreneurial activity and exploration, which will serve them well from a skill building and experience perspective, as well as the opportunity to be compensated. This is the right step in allowing student-athletes the same opportunities that all students on campuses have always enjoyed.”

Penn State athletes comment on NIL

A number of Penn State athletes were among the first to join the newly formed Barstool Athletes. Barstool sports founder Dave Portnoy called an “Emergency Press Conference” on Twitter on July 1 to announce the creation of Barstool Athletes

One of the first Barstool Athletes, women’s basketball player Anna Camden, spoke at the press conference. However she didn’t mention Portnoy or Barstool.

“I want to thank all the athletes who came before me. It is because of them we are fortunate enough to be here during a new era of college sports. I’m so excited to see how my fellow athletes tackle these endeavors and entrepreneurial opportunities.  NIL is not only about making money but it is about equal rights for students.”

Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson joined a number of other college athletes by partnering with Yoke gaming app. Dotson commented:

“This is a huge opportunity for myself and all the student athletes here at Penn State as we work to get a head start in life. We all know the brand and recognition that comes with saying ‘I go to Penn State.’ That gives student athletes a unique chance to succeed not only in athletics but in academics. It’s why this NIL is such a great opportunity.”

College athletes still won’t get money from TV contracts

College athletes will still not get a cut of the massive TV contracts the NCAA and its member conferences have with various networks.

CBS and Turner signed a $10.8 billion contract in 2010 with the NCAA to televise the men’s NCAA tournaments. In 2016, they signed an eight-year extension which gives them the rights through 2032.

In 2012, ESPN secured the rights to broadcast the College Football Playoffs through 2025 for $5.6 billion.

The fall of 2017 marked the beginning of a six year, $440 million per-year between the Big Ten Conference and ESPN, Fox and CBS. Additionally, the conference generates millions from the Big Ten Network that it jointly owns with Fox.

Penn State’s apparel deal with Nike is estimated to be worth $2 million per year. However, an exact figure isn’t known since the school is exempt from Pennsylvania’s right-to-know law.

Some of Penn State’s corporate partners include Rocket Mortgage, Nissan, and the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Penn State football 2021 betting odds

Penn State started the 2020 season 0-5, the worst start in the history of the program. The Nittany Lions rallied and won their final four games in a pandemic-shortened season.

Penn State football starts their 2021 season on the road on Sept. 4 vs. Wisconsin. On Sept. 11 the Nittany Lions host Ball State at Beaver Stadium which can open at full capacity.

Penn State 2021 betting lines

(via DraftKings PA sportsbook)

  • Sept. 4: Penn State (-3.5) at Wisconsin.
  • Sept. 11: Ball State at Penn State (-20.5)
  • Sept. 18: Auburn at Penn State (-7.5)
  • Oct. 2: Indiana at Penn State (-6.5)
  • Oct. 9: Penn State (+3.5) at Iowa
  • Oct. 23: Illinois at Penn State (-20.5)
  • Oct. 30: Penn State (+10.5) at Ohio State
  • Nov. 6: Penn State (-9.5) at Maryland
  • Nov. 13: Michigan at Penn State (-7.5)
  • Nov. 20: Rutgers at Penn State (-17.5)
  • Nov. 27: Michigan State at Penn State (-13.5)

Lead photo from Patrick Mansell, staff photographer in University Public Relations.

Katie Kohler Avatar
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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist and Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania. Katie especially enjoys creating unique content and on-the-ground reporting in PA. She is focused on creating valuable, timely content about casinos and sports betting for readers. Katie has covered the legal Pennsylvania gambling industry for Catena Media since 2019.

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