Editorial: Money Rewrites The CT High School Playbook

Editorial: Money Rewrites The CT High School Playbook

An editorial from Hearst Connecticut Media:


There is one universal truth in every sport: If you step into the arena without knowing the rules, you’ve already lost.

Many of the bodies guiding high school sports across the country were using outdated rule books when the NCAA opened the gateway to athletes profiting from their name, image and likeness (NIL).

Change has been coming as quickly as a senior tackle at a freshman quarterback, but many states have tried to shield high school athletes from the lure of financial rewards. It’s one of the last lines of defense for amateur sports.

Just last year, the issue was deemed a threat to “the most sacred and fundamental aspect of high school sports in the United States — the concept of amateurism!” by Karissa Niehoff, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Niehoff happens to be the former executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC). Sixteen months after she wrote those words, the change she spotted on the horizon has arrived.

While the scholastic sports season has been wrapping up, the CIAC has been rewriting policies to address NIL.

Essentially, a student star will now be able to get an agent and pursue financial opportunities, while avoiding use of logos and names of schools.

The league also prohibited income coming from the likes of tobacco, cannabis, alcohol and gambling products. It’s hard to miss the irony that these are the areas Connecticut has been leaning on for revenue in recent years.

Connecticut was the 10th state to take the leap, but is a few months behind New York and New Jersey. Stepinac, a private school in White Plains, New York, hired a marketing consultant to help students with deals. It could be an outlier, but it is more likely a harbinger of things to come.

The reality is that Connecticut rarely produces athletes that would lure frenzied interest from sponsors. But CIAC by-laws were overdue for a reboot to reflect how the world has changed since the big bang of social media.

High schoolers are already hurling their names, images and likenesses out into the world, elbowing for position as social media influencers. Drawing income from their sports identities seems only fair given the growing scrum to win subscribers and profits from sites.

Dividing students from their high school identities is the right move, but schools shouldn’t pretend they don’t also stand to profit from the talents of the brightest stars.

Purists will likely never embrace such changes. It’s admirable to adhere to the ideal that scholastic sports is education-based, but life lessons evolve with the times. It’s about more than teamwork, leadership, coping with defeat and the rewards of a strong work ethic.

In essence, the CIAC executed the lessons of high school competition on this issue, playing offense as well as defense.

But this game has barely even started.


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