In December 2022, the TSSAA Legislative Council unanimously approved changes to the Amateur Rule of the TSSAA Bylaws after extensive discussion with the membership at the TSSAA Administrators Meetings in September and Regional Meetings in November.
The change establishes that students are allowed to receive payment for instructional services and other activities not related to performance provided that they are carried out in a manner that does not suggest or reasonably suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of the TSSAA school. The student’s activities for which they are compensated may not include an image or likeness of the student in a uniform, or other clothing or gear depicting the name or logo of the TSSAA member school the student is attending or has attended. No reference to TSSAA accolades or championships may be used in the student’s activities for which they are compensated.
It is important to note that a student who violates the amateur rule shall be ineligible for 12 months in the sport in which the violation occurs. To avoid the appearance of impropriety, schools or those directly or indirectly associated with the school should refrain from soliciting, negotiating or promoting a student’s participation in activities for which they are compensated.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has produced a free 15 minute course which gives further clarification on what is considered permissible in Tennessee and the 20+ other states where this type of compensation is permitted. This course can easily be accessed by administrators, coaches, students, and parents. It also highlights misconceptions that various stakeholders may have about these new opportunities for compensation. .
A complete version of the revisions to the amateur rule is found below.
A student who has never received payment for performance who has never used and is not using his/her knowledge of athletics or his/her athletic skill for pay in the sports which this Association governs and who has always contested under his/her own name is an amateur. (Accepting money for officiating athletic contests, payment for instructional services, or for working as an employee in a city or county recreation program is not a violation of this regulation.) Bowling, golf and tennis students will abide by USBC, USGA, and USTA regulations in accepting pay.
Students may receive payment for activities not related to performance provided that they are carried out in a manner that does not suggest or reasonably suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of the TSSAA school. The student’s activities for which they are compensated may not include an image or likeness of the student in a uniform, or other clothing or gear depicting the name or logo of the TSSAA member school the student is attending or has attended. No reference to TSSAA accolades or championships may be used in the student’s activities for which they are compensated.
A student who violates any portion of the Amateur Rule shall be penalized according to the sanctions below:
- First Violation: The student shall receive a formal warning and return any award(s) or money received in violation of this rule. TSSAA shall direct the student in violation to immediately remove any endorsement, advertisement, sponsorship, or other promotional activity that is in
violation of the Amateur Rule.
- Second Violation: The student shall be ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at any level of competition for a period of one (1) year from the date of TSSAA’s determination of the second violation.
- Third Violation: The penalty and any additional period of ineligibility will be determined by the Executive Director based on a consideration of the nature of the violation(s) and the extent to which the violation(s) may have been knowing, deliberate, or in reckless disregard of the provisions of this rule.
- Note: It is expected that the TSSAA member school will ensure adherence to any of the above penalties imposed on their student.
Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the changes to the TSSAA Amateur Rule approved by the TSSAA Legislative Council in December 2022. The revisions clarify that there are some activities that are unrelated to performance where a student can receive payment provided that they are carried out in a manner that does not suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of the TSSAA school. There should be no school involvement in the facilitation or promotion of these activities.
TSSAA Amateur Rule FAQ
1. Can an athlete post a link to a business they are receiving payment for sponsoring if there are references to the school in their social media profile where the link appears?
No. References to the school or pictures depicting the athlete in their uniform may not appear in the post containing a link to the sponsoring business.
2. Can a coach or other school official facilitate, coordinate, promote, or negotiate an NIL agreement for a student-athlete enrolled at his/her school?
No. A school can provide generic educational materials or advice regarding the factors that should be considered before entering into an NIL deal but should never be involved with coordinating, facilitating, promoting, or negotiating agreements for student-athletes.
3. Can a booster club or other school support organization make payment to a student-athlete for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness?
No. Payment from a school booster club could reasonably suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of the TSSAA school.
4. Can a school or school support organization distribute money for services to a student through a Name, Image Likeness Collective?
No. School association with a collective would be considered express or implied sponsorship or endorsement of the activity.
5. If an athlete wishes to give private lessons or run a mini camp using school facilities and advertises the lesson or camp, is he/she in violation of the Amateur Rule by mentioning the school as the host site in the advertisement?
Yes. Students may receive payment for activities not related to performance provided that they are carried out in a manner that does not suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of a TSSAA school. To avoid the inference or suggestion that the school endorses or sponsors the activity, the school should not be mentioned in the advertisement. The student may, of course, inform those who contact him or her about the location of the lessons or camp, but that location – if it is a member school – should not be mentioned in any advertisement. If a student is using a school’s facility for instructional purposes, he or she should be treated the same as any member of the student population regarding usage agreements, fees, etc.
6. Are there limits as to how much an athlete can make from an endorsement or sponsorship?
7. Are there limits as to how much an athlete can charge for giving lessons or putting on a camp?
8. Can a coach of a school assist an athlete who is giving lessons or putting on a camp?
No. A coach’s assistance would reasonably suggest support or endorsement by the school.
9. Are there restrictions as to the types of businesses athletes can sign NIL agreements with?
Not at this time.
10. Would it be a violation if an athlete and his/her family were offered a residence as a result of an NIL agreement after he/she had enrolled in and attended a school?
This would be a recruiting violation if a school was involved.
11. Does a school have to document its athletes’ NIL activities?
Not for the purposes of TSSAA. However, school officials may wish to maintain an awareness of those activities in order to ensure that the activities do not suggest the endorsement or sponsorship of the school.
12. If a coach is contacted by a community member seeking a pitcher/receiver/setter/etc. to provide lessons to their child, could the coach direct them to one of his/her players?
No. A coach directing someone to one of his/her players for this purpose would reasonably suggest endorsement or sponsorship of the school.