3 ways SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey would fix NIL's Wild West

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

BIRMINGHAM — The answer of who has the power to clean up the mess created by various name, image and likeness interpretations is unclear.

Is it the NCAA? Do conferences solve it? Is intervention from the federal government going to be required?

There seem to be more questions than answers right now as reports occasionally appear of third-party NIL collectives signing college recruits to significant dollar amounts. 'Wild west' has been an applicable term for an era where the guidelines have been unclear in a world without guardrails, leading to different groups taking different liberties. 

“Can we put the toothpaste back in the tube? The cow back in the barn?” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said at the Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast Region meeting at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on Monday. “That’s part of those legislative conversations. Whether I’m optimistic or predict a federal solution or not, I am appreciative of the interest and the ability to work toward something that can support national competition in a healthy way across the college athletics spectrum.”

Sankey alone doesn’t have the power to wave a magic wand and fix the issues, but if he did, here are some of the steps he said he would take.

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Leave NIL out of recruiting process

If an athlete is going to be paid, Sankey wants there to be an activity the athlete also has to complete for that payment. So if an athlete is receiving compensation for his or her name, image and likeness, they are taking part in an event such as an autograph session or showing up to a particular event.

“(So that) payment is consistent with the action as opposed to just what I read seems to be just simply payment,” Sankey said.

Don't led NIL limit freedom of expression

Sankey wants athletes to be able to express themselves freely in the NIL era, similar to what was seen in the summer of 2020.

“Not limited by sponsor’s interests,” Sankey said.


Sankey wants disclosure to be at the forefront of all activity surrounding NIL and collectives.

“Not because I need to monitor all that but I think that’s a healthy expectation of a properly overseen marketplace,” Sankey said.

With the rush of business, individuals and agents who have jumped into the space, Sankey said he is sure there are those who are reputable, have boards and disclosure policies.

“I’m equally certain there are those that are not reputable that don’t have disclosure policies, that don’t have boards that oversee their activity,” Sankey said.

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly