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North Dakota, Minnesota state high school leagues both pass 'Name, Image, Likeness' policies

The North Dakota High School Activities Association and the Minnesota State High School League both passed NIL policies this week about a year after the NCAA did the same.

An early-morning high school football practice.
North Dakota and Minnesota state high school leagues both passed NIL policies this week.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — High school leagues in North Dakota and Minnesota will both have “Name, Image, Likeness” (NIL) policies in place for the next school year after both approved plans this week.

The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Board of Directors and North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) both passed their NIL policies Tuesday.

“We all see what’s going on with the NCAA at that level, I felt it was important that we somehow safeguard our kids’ amateurism and make sure that we don’t promote anything that would sacrifice, potentially, them losing their amateurism,” said Dickinson (N.D.) High School athletic director Gus Fridley, who is also on the NDHSAA Board of Directors.

The NCAA passed its NIL policy last summer.

“I think it’s important that the high school associations align with the NCAA and make sure we have something in place to support the athletes,” said Moorhead High School athletic director Dean Haugo. “I don’t think in 98% of the schools it’s going to be a significant issue, at least in the short term.”

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The high school leagues in North Dakota and Minnesota have similar policies in which an athlete can’t use school uniforms, logos or high school league logos in marketing or promotion. Booster clubs also can’t be involved with NIL or compensation can’t be used for recruiting an athlete to a certain school. Athletes also can't be compensated for performance.

“I think the two biggest pieces are not having an affiliation with the school and not being influenced, or having an effect, where you attend school,” said NDHSAA executive director Matthew Fetsch.

Fetsch said the NDHSAA had been working on drafts for its policy since last September and inquired with North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota about their NIL policies. Fetsch said the activities association has yet to deal with NIL inquiry.

“The reality is as a state association I haven’t had one inquiry from a school administrator, student, parent, family, etc., but it’s something the board wanted to have in place if the time comes,” Fetsch said.

In the MSHSL policy, teaching/instructing/coaching, advertising a product or service and autographs are among permissible activities with certain guidelines, including not using school uniforms, logos or high school league logos.

That is on par with the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sent out a release Wednesday, June 8, that stated NIL benefits for prep athletes can’t involve school uniforms.

“With regard to NIL, we realize that high school students can be tremendous entrepreneurs — they already are in a number of capacities. Students have the ability to be recognized for their athletic prowess and that can be a nice opportunity for a young person,” wrote Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, the NFHS Chief Executive Officer. “However, the NFHS and its member associations believe high school student-athletes should not be able to benefit as professionals from something they do not own — that is their high school uniform. The NFHS and its member state associations would not support a situation that would involve a member school and a student-athlete entering into a professional contract while representing that member school.”

Haugo said athletes working offseason camps is one of the ways he sees in the short term that an athlete could receive compensation under the new policy.

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“For most of us, it’s probably not a terribly pressing issue,” Haugo said. “I think it’s going to take a while for kids to catch on and figure out ways to take advantage of it. But as soon as we have a young person in our programming that is looking to take advantage of the NIL we will support them to the very best we can.”

However, Haugo added there have been unique cases in recent Minnesota prep history where NIL could have been lucrative. He gave the example of former Hopkins High School girls basketball star Paige Bueckers, who is now a megastar for the Connecticut women’s basketball team. Former Minnehaha Academy boys basketball standout Chet Holmgren, who played last season for Gonzaga, is another example of a player who could have cashed in from NIL while in high school.

“Paige I can assure you probably would have been able to make pretty solid money as a high school athlete,” Haugo said.

The Minnesota policy also specifies products or activities that can’t be promoted, including gambling, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and related products, illegal substances and adult entertainment.

Haugo said having an NIL policy for prep athletes is also self-serving in some respects.

“I think some of this is self preservation,” Haugo said. “If there is opportunity at the next level for them to garner benefits, it’s advantageous for the high school league to try to provide some of those same liberties so that we don’t lose those kids earlier than we already do to those future prospects.”

Fetsch and Fridley agreed that it was important for the NDHSAA to be proactive with NIL.

“I don’t see it being a huge thing right away, but I think it was important for us to get ahead of the game,” Fridley said.

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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