Fryer: NIL likely to help rich get richer in high school sports

What happens in college doesn’t always stay in college.

The NCAA last year began permitting college athletes to benefit financially from the commercial use of the athletes’ name, likeness or image, or “NIL” for short. That kicked open the door for high school athletes to do the same.

It used to be that if high school athletes benefited financially from their NIL that would end their amateur standing and thus make them ineligible for college athletics. That potentiality no longer exists. NIL endorsements now are available to high school athletes.

We learned more about NIL and high school sports Aug. 22. St. John Bosco sent to media a news release from a sports performance and equipment firm called KONGiQ that stated KONGiQ had offered all St. John Bosco football players an NIL opportunity. Six hours later St. John Bosco followed with what it called a “clarification” that said, no, this is not a KONGiQ-St. John Bosco arrangement, it’s KONGiQ reaching out to St. John Bosco players individually.

That next morning CIF Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod issued a message that included the portions of the CIF-SS by-laws that relate to NIL. The gist of it was, yes, it’s OK for a high school athlete at a CIF member school to get an NIL endorsement deal as long as the athlete’s school affiliation is nowhere present in the NIL presentation. Mater Dei quarterback Elijah Brown can appear in an ad for peanut butter as long as nothing is present that indicates he is a Mater Dei student or that he is a CIF athlete.

Several schools had done an ineffective job of policing their students’ NIL activities, so the CIF-SS office had to inform them about the by-laws and instruct them to help pull ads that displayed athlete-school connections.

It’s fine that high school athletes can make some money off of their skills. High school-aged people, like musicians and actors, have done so for a long time. As a high school student I wrote something for the Santa Ana Unified School District’s Superintendent’s Newsletter and was paid $20, which funded several tanks of gas in those days.

The problem with the NIL in high school is the same as it is in college: bigger athletic programs are going to attract more NIL action, enhancing those bigger athletic program’s ability to get the top athletes. Mater Dei and St. John Bosco and other Trinity League athletic programs, and to a lesser extent Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos football teams, thus become more attractive than they already are for eighth-graders and for, of course their parents, and for transfer-minded high school athletes and, of course, their parents.

CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod does not entirely agree with that.

“I’ve seen pictures of student-athletes from California Military Institute and Village Christian and other small schools as well, as well as of student-athletes at the bigger schools,” Wigod said.

Fine, but when a company looking to expend some NIL action on high school student-athletes it’s going to see that Mater Dei vs. Centennial football is on TV on Friday and Long Beach Poly vs. Mission Viejo football is being live streamed. No such exposure for CMI and Village Christian.

The commissioners of the 10 CIF sections in California will meet early next week to discuss how to manage the NIL challenge. The separation of high school sports elite programs from the others is growing. How to keep NIL from contributing to that is a challenge for those 10 commissioners.


• High school athletes and their parents (again, especially their parents) need to know that it is not necessary to play at a Trinity League school or at some other big-name school to succeed in college and beyond, whatever the sport. Rishard Matthews went to Saddleback High and played seven seasons as a receiver in the NFL. Oniel Cousins played eight-man football at Eastside Christian before playing seven seasons as an offensive tackle in the NFL.

• Mater Dei football coach Bruce Rollinson has 331 career coaching wins going into Friday’s big game against Centennial in Corona. The county record is 342 wins established by Bob Johnson, with most of those acquired at El Toro and Mission View with a few at Los Amigos. After Friday’s game, Mater Dei has seven regular-season games remaining, potentially three CIF-SS Division 1 playoff games and perhaps a CIF State championship game. If the Monarchs run the table, Rollinson would surpass Johnson which Rollinson would enjoy.

• Mater Dei-Centennial will be televised live by Bally Sports West at 7:30 p.m. Long Beach Poly vs. Mission Viejo will be live streamed by the Bally Sports West group.

• Unless Mission Viejo’s football team messes up, which is unlikely, the Diablos will be in the Division 1 playoffs. If the playoffs started this week and Division 1, as has been suggested, is a four-team bracket, Mission Viejo, with a 71.5 rating from, in the first round would play at St. John Bosco (110.8) with Centennial at Mater Dei in the other Division 1 game. If Division 1 is an eight-team bracket and the playoffs started this week, the other four teams would be Los Alamitos, Santa Margarita, Orange Lutheran and Bishop Amat.

• Some girls volleyball results of note this week: Corona del Mar defeated San Clemente in five sets, including two sets of 26-24 and one of 29-27; Santa Margarita defeated Trabuco Hills in four sets; Laguna Beach defeated Foothill in three sets; San Clemente defeated Newport Harbor in four sets; San Juan Hills defeated Beckman in five sets; and in a wild match of former league rivals, Garden Grove defeated Rancho Alamitos in five sets, including a 15-13 score in the final set.

• Coaches in all sports are much smarter than coaches of the past were when it comes to taking care of their athletes in hot weather. Hydration and scheduling alterations are much more emphasized now.

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