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Another Domino Falls: NCAA allows NIL

Fresh off the loss in the Supreme Court, the NCAA finally allows players to cash in on their Name, Image, and Likeness.

2021 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Championship Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Happy NIL day!

Today is a day that had long been expected, thanks to laws and executive orders being signed in several states. It’s also a day the NCAA has long fought, kicked, screamed, and begged to not happen in order to preserve some sense of “amateur” athletics.

Last week, word came down from the Supreme Court that the NCAA couldn’t cap what schools could spend on athletes for education supplies, and in the decision it was...strongly hinted...that if further cases about NCAA practices came before the court, the organization would have a tough time winning. This, combined with the efforts by states to allow athletes to finally cash in on their fame forced the hand of the NCAA to allow for everyone to benefit from their name, image, and likeness. On Wednesday, the NCAA removed barriers for athletes to seek money based on who they were. The new rules are temporary in nature, as they expect some sort of overall federal guidance to come, but it allows everyone to cash in instead of just athletes in a select few states. That includes those in the bastion of labor rights, Alabama.

As I said last week, few things seem to unite us as a country than disdain for the fact that college athletes can’t make a dime off their fame while schools, commissioners, and networks rake in millions, if not billions.

Let’s take a quick look at what this does and does not mean:

Schools cannot directly pay players

NIL being granted is NOT the beginning of schools actually sharing the pie of revenue with players. Schools are still prohibited from directly paying players for their labor, with the exception of the scholarships, housing, and now the uncapped amount of educational expenses. That loophole seems wide enough to allow for some things to be “educational expenses,” but loophole aside, you aren’t going to see a CBA like you see in every other professional sport. Nor will you see players signing contracts to get an annual salary, just like the pro games.

Players can sign endorsement deals

Now, what Name, Image, and Likeness DOES mean is that a player has the ability to use the fame that playing for their team generates to sign some sort of deal to endorse a product. So, presumably, Adidas could come in and sign a UNC player, but that player couldn’t appear in any ad wearing UNC paraphernalia since the school has a contact with Jordan Brand and Nike. This, by the way, isn’t any different than the pros. You may...or may not...notice that if your favorite player endorses, say, a Coke product but the team they play for has a contract with Pepsi, any ad for that player won’t have the team logo. The company that signs the player won’t really care, because the value is in the player, but if Jordan Brand wants to go ahead and sign a UNC player to a deal while in school, presumably that player can appear in an ad wearing UNC logos, depending on state laws.

Players can sign with Agents

Navigating the world of endorsements is difficult enough for players once they leave school, take away a few years and you can easily understand why someone may seek help in trying to wade through all the offers. Since the vast majority of players won’t end up playing in the various professional leagues, one would imagine that someone being able to present them the best offers so that they can concentrate on school would be a bonus. You can expect a lot of opportunities to pop up in this area, with groups specializing in helping the college athlete.

Players can monetize their social media

This is where the bulk of the endorsements are likely going to come from. Most big companies aren’t going to be spending money for college athletes, and the vast majority of NCAA athletes hold little value to average Americans in terms of an endorsement. But if you have a kid from a small town hit it big, and that small town’s pizza place wants to throw him some money to mention them on the social media, then that is now allowed. Considering how big video game culture is right now, you can also expect some opportunities to crop up there since a lot of players are happy to broadcast their game play on Twitch.

Boosters can pay kids

Joe Giglio brought up an interesting point when going over this on Wednesday’s OG, the guidelines from the NCAA say that boosters are allowed to pay for endorsements from athletes. So now the mythical car dealer actually can pay for an endorsement above the table!

The best example of this, honestly, would again be major players in the restaurant world who donate money to their alma mater getting an official endorsement from that kid, either through print, social media, and so forth. Technically there’s a process to where this can be done above board, but whereas some people wondered if this would reduce the influence of boosters, instead it might actually make them stronger.

Players can host camps

This is one that will bring money to the “non-revenue” athletes. While the MVP of a championship team, think Erin Matson, might be able to cash in on a hot moment, the vast majority of sports played at the NCAA level don't have a lot of value in getting money off endorsement deals.

Unless that player can then host a camp for players familiar with what they’ve done.

Rules before were a little spotty on players being able to participate in camps as, ideally, the camp would be using that player to draw in participants, and thus the player would deserve some sort of compensation for their name being used. Now, a hometown field hockey player can advertise the fact they’ll be involved in a two week camp, get compensated however the organizer feels is fair, and help spread the game they love AND get paid for it. Baseball skills camps, volleyball clinics, and so on. Considering how youth sports have turned into almost a full-time profession for many players, there is likely going to be a market for camps hosted by current college athletes.

We haven’t heard the last of player compensation as this system still essentially preserves the billions that television companies send to the schools for the broadcast rights, and schools will also have an opportunity to deal with being a clearinghouse for some of these opportunities. The likelihood that some players will get exploited, and some schools will exploit the system, is high

However, it’s a small price to pay to allow for players to actually make money off the fame they earn while in school. For a lot of them, this will be the highest level they achieve, and it should help set them up for life after college a lot better than the prior system.