Virginia law allows schools to pay NIL deals to athletes

A new law signed Thursday will enable schools in Virginia to pay name, image and likeness deals directly to student-athletes.

The legislation, which takes effect on July 1, is the first of its kind in the nation. It makes it illegal for the NCAA to punish any school in Virginia for compensating athletes with NIL deals.

The law potentially could give schools like Virginia and Virginia Tech — whose officials helped to draft the legislation — a leg up in recruiting, as current NCAA rules prohibit schools from signing NIL deals with their own players. Currently, students receive their NIL pay through third parties.

Critics consider this another step toward the professionalization of college sports, although the law does not allow Virginia schools to pay athletes for their performance in a sport. It does permit the use of university and athletic department funds to pay athletes for appearing in marketing campaigns.

Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said the new law could be a catalyst for change elsewhere.

“If this law gets us closer to a federal or a national solution for college athletics then it will be more than worthwhile,” Williams said, per ESPN. “Until then, we have an obligation to ensure we maintain an elite athletics program at UVA.”

Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock called it “a step in the right direction for the commonwealth of Virginia and the country in my opinion.”

Williams and Babcock declined to share their potential NIL budgets with ESPN. Both also said they were looking into Title IX considerations as far as an equitable distribution of NIL opportunities for male and female student-athletes.