Joe Manchin, Tommy Tuberville Introduce Bill to Create a Federal Standard for Payments to College Athletes

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) introduced the Protecting Athletes, Schools, and Sports (PASS) Act of 2023 to protect student-athletes, maintain fair competition and compensation, strengthen transparency in financial earnings of college students via a national standard.

Since the NCAA allowed student athletes to receive compensation for name and image likeness in advertising, some college athletes have made more than six figures per season.

Tuberville, who was head coach for football teams at the University of Mississippi, Auburn University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Cincinnati, said the bill will help to prevent NIL from ending college athletics.

“Student athletes should be able to take advantage of NIL promotional activities without impacting their ability to play collegiate sports,” Sen. Tuberville said in an official statement. “But we need to ensure the integrity of our higher education system, remain focused on education, and keep the playing field level. Our legislation with Senator Manchin will set basic rules nationwide, protect our student-athletes, and keep NIL activities from ending college sports as we know it.”

The PASS Act comes two years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided National Collegiate Athletics Association v. Alston (Alston)

“As a former college athlete, I know how important sports are to gaining valuable life skills and opening doors of opportunity. However, in recent years, we have faced a rapidly evolving NIL landscape without guidelines to navigate it, which jeopardizes the health of the players and the educational mission of colleges and universities,” Sen. Manchin said. “Our bipartisan legislation strikes a balance between protecting the rights of student-athletes and maintaining the integrity of college sports. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to consider this commonsense legislation as a way to level the playing field in college athletics.”

Specifically, the PASS Act would: 

  • Protect student-athletes by:
    1. Requiring collectives and boosters to be affiliated with a college or school.
    2. Establishing a national standard for NIL.
    3. Preserving Title IX and ensuring that nothing in the PASS Act affects the rights of any student-athletes or any programs funded through Title IX.
  • Protect higher education institutions by:
    1. Ensuring that schools, conferences, and associations are not liable for their efforts to comply with the PASS Act.
    2. Prohibiting NIL agreements that involve alcohol, drugs, or conflict with existing school and conference licenses.
    3. Requiring student-athletes to ask permission to make use of existing intellectual property (IP).
  • Preserve the future of college sports by prohibiting inducements.
  • Improve transparency of NIL activities by:
    1. Requiring agents and collectives to register with a regulating body.
    2. Establishing a public-facing website to publish anonymized NIL data.
    3. Requiring all NIL contracts to be disclosed within 30 days.
  • Moderate the Transfer Portal by:
    1. Requiring student-athletes to complete their first three years of academic eligibility before allowing them to transfer without penalty, subject to a few exceptions.
  • Ensure the health and safety of student-athletes by:
    1. Guaranteeing health insurance for sports-related injuries for uninsured student-athletes for 8 years following graduation from a 4-year institution.
    2. Requiring institutions generating more than $20 million and $50 million in athletics revenue to pay out-of-pocket expenses for two and four years, respectively.  
    3. Requiring institutions to honor the original scholarship commitment made to a student-athlete.
    4. Implementing a Uniform Standard Contract for student-athlete use for NIL deals.
    5. Enhancing curriculum on financial literacy, NIL rights, and related legal and regulatory issues.
  • Strengthen enforcement and oversight by directing the NCAA to oversee and investigate NIL activities and report violations to the Federal Trade Commission.

In June 2021, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors announced an “interim” policy suspending its rules relating to NIL compensation until federal legislation is enacted or until the NCAA adopts new rules. Following this announcement, there has been a push for Congress to act swiftly to provide clarity on NIL compensation.

In 2022, Senators Manchin and Tuberville solicited feedback from athletic leaders, including university athletic directors, administrators, associations, collectives and student-athlete groups, to build consensus around this bipartisan legislation. Here’s what they are saying:

“The NCAA is transforming how it serves student-athletes by mandating Division I schools offer enhanced health, wellness and academic protections and is moving ahead to support student-athletes as they monetize their NIL rights, but there are some challenges facing college sports that only Congress can address. The NCAA is encouraged by the significant, student-athlete centric reforms included in the Protecting Athletes, Schools, and Sports Act of 2023 (“PASS Act”), introduced today in the United States Senate. This important legislation is a major step in the right direction to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, includes key measures to increase consumer protections and transparency in the NIL market, and aims to protect women’s and Olympic sports. There is clearly growing bipartisan interest in taking legislative action to create a stable, sustainable, and equitable foundation for future generations of student-athletes and we are committed to working with all stakeholders to get this done,” said NCAA President Charlie Baker.

“We love and celebrate collegiate athletics, but the landscape has changed dramatically as schools and student athletes are now forced to navigate a patchwork of inconsistent regulations regarding Name, Image and Likeness. This is not sustainable. That is why I am so glad for Sen. Manchin’s leadership and encourage Congress to provide the necessary direction at the federal level to create a pathway for establishing a common set of ground rules related to NIL, as well setting guard rails around the transfer portal,” said West Virginia University President Gordon Gee.

“Auburn University appreciates the efforts undertaken by Senators Tommy Tuberville and Joe Manchin to create a national framework for NIL that establishes clear rules and addresses the patchwork of conflicting state laws governing collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing to work with these offices, other members of the House and Senate, and the Southeastern Conference as this process continues,” said Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts.

“We are appreciative to the Senators for their leadership in developing national standards aimed at protecting student-athletes and preserving the integrity of, and opportunities provided by, intercollegiate athletics.  We are grateful for their collaboration and remain optimistic about the efforts to produce effective national legislation,” said the University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell.

Matt O'Hern
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