Upcoming SDHSAA meeting to discuss constitution changes to recruitment, NIL

The proposed changes come after the first formal charge of recruitment was levied by one member school during last school year, according to SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos.

South Dakota High School Activities Association
Mitchell Republic file photo

MITCHELL — The upcoming South Dakota High School Activities Association meeting on April 12 brings with it a few hot-button topics.

The SDHSAA is proposing a change to a few bylaws of the constitution including name, image and likeness (NIL), as well as recruitment by members schools of athletes. Also up for vote are rules regarding ejections and when the player or coach may serve the penalty.

In order for the changes to be approved, they must pass with a 60% vote among the 180 member schools of the SDHSAA. The deadline for schools to return their ballot is Wednesday, May 31.

Here are some things to know about the proposed changes.


The bylaw regarding recruitment currently states, “No school may become or continue to be a member school if it gives or awards scholarships, free tuition, free bus transportation, free school lunch, or any other inducements, directly or indirectly, to persuade a student to attend its school. … Nor shall any other undue influence be exerted by either school personnel or non-school individuals whereby an attempt is made to persuade or inspire a prospective student to attend a particular school for athletic purposes.”


SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos said the proposed changes to the bylaws are in hopes of clarifying “other inducements” and “undue influence.”

“You’re left trying to figure out did that student transfer on their own accord because they wanted to transfer and they’re fully allowed to transfer or was there some sort of undue influence exerted on the student to get them to go there,” Swartos said.

The proposed changes come after the first formal charge of recruitment was levied by one member school during last school year. Swartos, who declined to mention the schools involved in an effort to protect the identity of the student, said after an investigation they were not able to substantiate the allegation of recruitment.

Swartos said there wasn’t much to fall back on when the accusation was brought up due to the ambiguity of the rules as they were written at the time. But still the incident brought to light vagueness within the language of the rules.

“That happened, we fell back onto our rules. Two things we realized, that there's some pretty ambiguous language in there, and we at least needed to put some examples in there of what we're talking about,” Swartos said. “And two, the only prescribed, really spelled-out penalty within that was for the student. I don't think that's right, either. If there's recruiting going on, it certainly takes two.”

Swartos added that within the current rules, it’s implied that the board can take action against the school or coach, but it wasn’t specifically spelled out.

Still, it’s admittedly difficult to prove a school is recruiting a student, Swartos noted, especially given students are permitted to transfer one time.

“If there’s an accusation of it, all you can fall back on is what you have in the books,” Swartos said. “A big part of enforcement is education and getting this out in front of the schools and saying, ‘This is not appropriate.’ …


“In terms of enforcement, it’s just making sure people are aware of what they can and can’t do. And then if there are accusations, we’ve got a more concrete definition to fall back on.”


The proposed changes regarding NIL are in an effort to protect the amateurism of South Dakota prep athletes, Swartos said.

Swartos added he took much of the language he used in the proposed bylaw from surrounding states that already have NIL policies in place such as North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas. As it’s currently written, “A student may be declared ineligible if he/she … received remuneration for the use of name, picture and/or personal appearance as an athlete in the promotion of a commercial or profit-making event.”

Swartos said he’s received phone calls from NIL agencies and has even fielded calls from organizations that were raffling off an autographed football from a South Dakota prep player this year.

“They’re able to benefit from this student’s signature but that student themself can’t,” he said. “... I looked at our rules, and that language regarding 'as an athlete,' seemed pretty ambiguous. So my goal was to try to try to clarify that and make sure it's clear for kids and for schools and for everyone involved.”

Swartos said he sees the impact of an NIL policy being more so to avoid student-athletes unintentionally doing something not permitted within the rules, though he noted there are athletes in the state that could potentially benefit from NIL.

All told, the proposed changes are in an effort to protect both the students and the schools in the cases of recruitment and NIL and to more clearly illustrate what can and cannot be done.

“We do have some high-profile kids where this could potentially apply,” Swartos said. “And we thought we needed to make our language less ambiguous and just really clearly define it so the student doesn't accidentally run afoul of this and jeopardize their amateur status and just be as plain as we could be with it.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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