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Bringing you a new perspective on Ohio sports every Wednesday morning.

NIL deals for Ohio high school athletes? "It's coming."

Ohio High School Athletic Association
Ohio High School Athletic Association
A majority of Ohio High School Athletic Association members this month voted against name, image and likeness opportunities for the state's prep athletes, 538-254. .

Ohio high schools last week soundly voted down a proposal that would allow athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. It's an issue that's gained momentum after the Supreme Court ruled last year that college athletes can sign NIL deals.

Commentator Terry Pluto says high schools better start preparing now.

Getting ahead of the issue
"Some athletes are going to take it to court and you're going to lose. You better get out in front of this, Ohio, because it's coming and you're wiser to make rules your way. But if you don't do it, somebody is going to start imposing standards, and you're probably not going to like them," Pluto said.

Currently, nine states permit their high school athletes to sign NIL deals: California, Alaska, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Utah.

How many LeBrons are there?
It brings to mind Ohio's most famous high school athlete — LeBron James in the early 2000s. When he was a senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary's in Akron, he was suspended for two games for taking two free throwback NBA jerseys in exchange for his autograph.

Pluto says under NIL rules, that would be legal.

"In fact, LeBron could have done his own jerseys, signed them and sold them for a ton of money. LeBron would have made a ton of money on different things. And of course, he did later on anyway. I mean, LeBron signed a shoe contract for over $90 million before he dribbled a ball once in the NBA," Pluto said.

"You better get out in front of this, Ohio, because it's coming and you're wiser to make rules your way."
Terry Pluto

Still, how many LeBrons are out there?

"Not many, a handful likely," Pluto said.

And Pluto says most elite prep athletes attend schools like Oak Hill Academy, IMG and Finley Academy that don't belong to their high school associations and can set their own NIL rules.

Where NIL rules could help
"Here's where I think [NIL] will help. If some pizza restaurant in some small town wants to sponsor everybody and have free pizzas and have a little autograph party and everybody gets 50 bucks or ten bucks. You could do that, when I guess before that would get you suspended," Pluto said.

So, Pluto doesn't think NIL deals will change the landscape of high school sports.

"I was a little surprised that it was turned down, like we're kind of guarding the sanctity of high school sports. Well, it isn't all that sacrosanct to begin with, and you got to deal with it," Pluto said.

Pluto believes the NIL question will be up for another vote by Ohio High School Athletic Association member schools next year.

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