As students start to arrive on UNC’s campus, the ones participating in sports are looking to take advantage of Name, Image, and Likeness opportunities for the second year. This week, UNC announced how they can help.
First, keep in mind that all of these NIL deals are supposed to be separate from the university. UNC, or any school, still can’t technically make a specific promise about pay-for-play. They can’t, per the NCAA, actually set up the deals, be directly involved in the process, and so forth. As we’ve quickly learned, the grey area about what constitutes “directly” is vast, and when a competitive advantage is involved, schools will try to use that grey area as much as possible.
First, on Monday, the school announced a way to make it easier for companies to get in touch with athletes directly.
Introducing the Carolina NIL Exchange, an online marketplace that will connect Tar Heel student-athletes with local, national and global businesses interested in partnering on Name, Image and Likeness opportunities.— UNC Tar Heels (@GoHeels) August 8, 2022
ℹ️ » https://t.co/RROypW4d8s#GoHeels pic.twitter.com/TDh4zHiLWO
The exchange will create an easy way for individuals and businesses to contact any Carolina athlete. The idea is that it creates a simplified way for communication to happen between players, or their representatives, and business entities to speak to each other. Clearly, NIL deals were happening before this, but having one centralized place for people to get started — including a player going on ahead and saying on this exchange who they are represented by — is a huge selling point for UNC to attract some of the best to the school. UNC partnered with INFLCR to do this, but they just set up the site. Neither will actually be involved in any negotiations, per the release.
The second bit of news came out on Tuesday, as the football-specific collective created named an Executive Director
We're excited to have Graham Boone return to Chapel Hill as the new Executive Director of Heels4Life, the independent, not-for-profit organization that facilitates NIL opportunities for @UNCFootball student-athletes— UNC Tar Heels (@GoHeels) August 9, 2022
ℹ️ » https://t.co/ocYm67nz4w#GoHeels x #UNCommon pic.twitter.com/JJXoltXZgi
So while the first exchange is for all the athletes at Carolina, Heels4Life is specifically for Carolina Football. Per the release, Boone is a UNC grad as well as a Morehead-Cain scholar, and worked as a player agent for several big name talents. Tim Duncan is probably the biggest, but he also negotiated for several UNC players.
Heels4Life is another example of a collective being created to help a school’s football players make money. Some are a little more blatant in the fact they will just go right out and pay players, but on the surface this one allows itself to say it’s going to work for the players to find those opportunities. Thus, the difference between the exchange and Heels4Life is that the exchange is just a portal for two entities to talk to each other, while Heels4Life specifically goes out on behalf of UNC football players to try and find opportunities for them to get NIL money.
Put another way: say a Franklin Street merchandise store wanted to get into the NIL business. If they wanted to try and attract a baseball player for autographs, they’d go to this exchange, look at the players and who they were represented by — if they were — and then use that contact to start negotiations. If they wanted to get involved with football, they could go to the exchange, or they could go to Heels4Life who would facilitate negotiations with multiple players at once. Heels4Life could also be proactive, going to this Franklin Street shop and offering the services of certain players.
It’s the new world we are in, and it wouldn’t be a shock if basketball has something similar pop up in the near future. Not every player is going to have the savvy of an Armando Bacot. And f you were thinking that this was just a way for me to post the photo I took with Bacot this weekend, well...it’s not the whole reason...but it is a reason.
The opportunity for this was provided by the fact that Armando accepted an NIL deal from Jimmy’s Sea Food — where I happened to be this weekend celebrating my anniversary — and somehow, word got to co-owner John Minadakis, who was ridiculously nice enough to allow me up to the private event Bacot had hosted and spend all of a couple minutes with the rising junior. I’m pleased to report he's about as nice as you’d expect and despite having every excuse to be annoyed with this schmuck talking to him.
Seriously, though, it’s an opportunity that athletes across all of Carolina’s sports weren’t getting fairly compensated before NIL became a rule, and it’s good to know that if great folks like Bacot have to put up with people like me, they’ll actually get money for it. The news of the exchange and Heels4Life should allow for more of Carolina’s athletes to reap these benefits. As Armando has shown, there’s money out there to be made.