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Gene Smith Against SB 206, But Sees Room for Name, Image, Likeness Possibilities

Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith

COLUMBUS — Prior to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day’s weekly Tuesday media availability, OSU athletic director Gene Smith stopped by to address the growing debate regarding California SB 206 and student-athletes’ rights to name, image, and likeness.

On Monday, California governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that would allow college athletes in California to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. The law is intended to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

The law would also prohibit entities like the NCAA from barring players and schools from participating in intercollegiate athletics. The law would also prohibit universities from giving money to players for their names, images, and likenesses.

Other states have begun to follow suit, but this is still in the early stages of implementation on a national scale.

Because of the sheer list of unknowns regarding this topic at the moment, Smith wanted to address it with the media and provide some perspective from an administrator. He shared his concerns, fears, and perspective on the bill and what it could mean to NCAA sports down the road.

Chief among these concerns is the fact that the bill as it stands now has few regulations, which scares Smith because it puts no standards or best practices in place.

The bill does require the athletes to make schools aware of every deal they make, and also prohibits them from signing a deal that would conflict with a contract the school already has in place.

For instance, if Ohio State is still a Nike school in 2023, the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback won’t be able to sign a deal with Adidas.

There is still plenty of time to address these concerns and make them amenable for most, but if this trend goes nationwide without any regulations, Smith said he would have no choice but to call on Ohio State’s half-million alums to do their part and pay it (i.e. the players) forward.

He cited the phone service Cameo as an example. Cameo will have celebrities call you up on the phone and say hi for a price. Smith suggested this would be one example that could get out of hand.

“If we were under the SB 206, I would call upon all 550,000 Buckeye alums across this country. Pull up Cameo. You’re all familiar with Cameo?” he asked. “Let’s say (sports information director) Jerry Emig is my star linebacker and he’s on Cameo. What is it, like $150 or something like that for him to do a shoutout to your best friend? All 550,000 Buckeyes across this country, you need to make sure you hook up with Jerry and do a Cameo and pay him $150. That’s the world we’d be living in.”

Smith’s example is an exaggeration in both price and scope, but the lack of regulation is the larger point. If that kind of free-for-all is combined with different rules for different states, then competitive balance as it was intended is out the window.

Smith said that Ohio State would no longer schedule teams from California under SB 206.

In reality, however, it will never get to that. Allowing players to make some money off of their names, images, and likenesses has been coming for some time.

Out of deference to the committee that he is on, Smith didn’t want to share his feelings on the matter, but acknowledged that if anything happens, it needs to be regulated.

“I’m sorry I can’t talk about the work of the working group,” he said. “I can say that I believe that there’s things that can be done in this space. That can be regulated. But I can’t obviously share with you what those things are.

“What we can’t have is a situation where we have schools and/or states with different rules for an organization that’s going to compete together. It can’t happen. It’s not reality. So if that happens, then what we need is federal help to try and make sure we create rules and regulations for all of our membership that are consistent. And if that doesn’t happen, then we are looking at a whole new model. A whole new model. And that is reality. If there is no federal engagement in this process, at the end of the day it’s a whole new model.”

You can watch Gene Smith’s entire interview session below.

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