Many misconceptions are spread about college athletics, especially when it comes to the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rule in college sports. For student-athletes and their families, it is crucial to understand the ins and outs of NIL to take full advantage of the opportunities it offers.
Here are five major misconceptions about NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) in college sports:
NIL Will Destroy Amateurism and Team Dynamics
One of the primary concerns with NIL is that it will compromise the concept of amateurism in college sports and negatively affect team dynamics. However, NIL allows student-athletes to profit from their hard work, dedication, and talent while maintaining their amateur status. In reality, NIL helps level the playing field and gives student-athletes the opportunity to build their personal brands and develop entrepreneurial skills. Additionally, research has shown that financial incentives in professional sports do not necessarily impact team cohesion negatively.
More reading: Only 8% of student-athletes say NIL is a ‘locker room problem’
Listen: Name Image Likeness with UREPZ Founder, C. Brett Harrell
Q&A on this misconception of team dynamics:
Q: Will college coaches talk with their pro connections to best understand differences in payment?
A: It is possible that college coaches will consult with their professional connections to better understand the differences in payment structures and strategies related to NIL opportunities. As the landscape of college athletics evolves with the introduction of NIL rules, coaches may look to tap into their networks in professional sports to gain insights on how to guide their student-athletes and help them navigate the complexities of NIL deals.
NIL Opportunities Are Only for Star Athletes
While it is true that star athletes may have more significant endorsement opportunities, the NIL rule offers possibilities for student-athletes across various sports and skill levels. Student-athletes can leverage their personal stories, connections, and unique talents to create a brand and explore marketing opportunities. In many cases, local businesses or niche markets may be more interested in partnering with student-athletes who have a strong connection to their community or cause.
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Listen: Jaiden Fields | Growing Up With Justin Fields, UGA Softball, and WWE NIL Next | From The Players E6
Q&A on this misconception of opportunities for star athletes:
Q: What are some examples of not-as-well-known college athletes scoring NIL deals?
A: While high-profile athletes have been the primary focus when it comes to NIL deals, several lesser-known college athletes have also capitalized on this opportunity. Here are two examples:
Haley and Hanna Cavinder: These twin sisters, who play basketball for Fresno State, signed an endorsement deal with Boost Mobile in July 2021. They also have partnerships with brands like Six Star Pro Nutrition and Degree Deodorant.
Lexi Sun: A volleyball player from the University of Nebraska, Lexi has signed deals with brands like Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and clothing company Altitude Seven.
These examples show that NIL opportunities are not limited to only the most famous college athletes but extend to those who can effectively leverage their personal brands, social media presence, and connections to secure deals with companies and organizations.
Colleges and Universities Control NIL Deals
The NCAA guidelines stipulate that colleges and universities cannot directly facilitate NIL deals for student-athletes. Instead, the athletes are responsible for seeking out and negotiating their own NIL agreements. This independence allows student-athletes to take charge of their personal brands and develop business skills while maintaining a separation between the school’s athletic program and its endorsement deals.
More reading: College Athletes Embrace NIL to Build Businesses, Brands
Listen: From The Players with Sydney Supple: Episode 2 | Brooke Nelson of UW Softball
Q&A on this misconception that universities are in control of NIL deals:
Q: What are a few ways in which you see college athletes taking responsibility for monetizing their brand?
A: College athletes can take responsibility for monetizing their brand in several ways, including:
- Building a strong social media presence: Athletes can leverage social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube to engage with fans, showcase their personality, and share their athletic journey. This helps them build a following and create a recognizable brand, which can be attractive to potential sponsors and partners.
- Developing personal branding: Athletes should focus on creating a unique and consistent image that represents their values, skills, and interests. This may include designing a personal logo, choosing specific colors or themes for their online presence, and being intentional about the content they share.
- Networking and relationship building: Athletes can connect with other influencers, athletes, and industry professionals to expand their network, share experiences, and learn about potential opportunities. Attending events, engaging in online communities, and collaborating with others can help build relationships and open doors to new partnerships.
- Identifying and approaching potential sponsors: Athletes can research companies and organizations that align with their values, interests, and target audience. By reaching out to these potential sponsors with a well-prepared pitch, athletes can demonstrate the value they bring to the partnership and negotiate mutually beneficial deals.
- Diversifying revenue streams: In addition to securing sponsorship and endorsement deals, athletes can explore other avenues for monetizing their brand. This may include creating and selling merchandise, hosting paid events or camps, offering online coaching or training sessions, or monetizing their content on platforms like YouTube or Patreon.
By taking responsibility for their personal brand and actively seeking ways to monetize it, college athletes can maximize their earning potential and capitalize on NIL opportunities.
NIL Earnings May Affect Needs-Based Financial Aid, But Provide Opportunities for Growth and Empowerment
The introduction of the NIL rule has opened doors for student-athletes, empowering them to monetize their name, image, and likeness. This not only allows them to gain financial benefits from their athletic talents and personal brands but also to develop valuable entrepreneurial and business skills.
While the NCAA has clarified that NIL compensation will not be considered when determining a student-athlete’s eligibility for athletic scholarships, it is important to note that the income generated from NIL deals could potentially impact the amounts that students qualify for under federal award programs, such as Pell Grants.
Income earned from NIL agreements will be considered additional taxable income for students, and as such, will be reportable on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If a student’s income increases due to NIL deals, it could potentially reduce their need-based financial aid. This is especially relevant for student-athletes who receive needs-based aid like Pell Grants, which are determined based on factors like student and parent income levels, family size, and the number of family members in college.
While some student-athletes may earn more from NIL opportunities than they lose in financial aid or incur in income taxes, it is crucial for them to understand the potential trade-offs and seek guidance from their institution’s financial aid office or athletics department when necessary. Colleges and universities should be prepared to address these concerns and help student-athletes navigate the complexities of NIL income and financial aid eligibility.
Ultimately, the positive aspects of NIL far outweigh the potential drawbacks. As student-athletes explore NIL opportunities, they will gain invaluable experience in managing their personal brands, negotiating deals, and making informed decisions that will serve them well in their future careers, both within and beyond the realm of sports. By embracing the NIL rule, we are empowering student-athletes to take control of their financial futures and fully benefit from their hard work, dedication, and talent.
Read more: NIL and Title IV financial aid considerations for colleges and universities
Listen: NIL, The Impact on Need-Based Aid | NACDA Podcast
Q&A on the misconceptions of NIL majorly impacting financial aid:
Q: How does FAFSA work for college athletes?
A: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process for college athletes is the same as it is for all other students. The FAFSA is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid, which includes grants, loans, and work-study programs. Go to studentaid.gov to learn more.
NIL Rules and Regulations Are the Same Everywhere
Although the NCAA has established general guidelines for NIL, each state has the freedom to create its own NIL laws. Additionally, individual colleges and universities can develop their own policies to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. Student-athletes must be aware of the specific NIL rules in their state and at their school to avoid any potential issues or violations.
Read more: NIL Incoming: Comparing State Laws and Proposed Legislation
Listen: State Laws on NIL | Highway to NIL Podcast
Q&A on the misconceptions about NIL and it being the same everywhere:
Q: What is a good resource to learn about each state’s current NIL laws?
A: The NIL Network has an up-to-date webpage dedicated to keeping everyone current on NIL state-specific laws.
NIL Is Just Getting Started, but This Resource on the Misconceptions of NIL Is Coming to an End
Embracing the NIL rule in college sports and educating yourself on this ever-changing rule offers a variety of positive outcomes for student-athletes. It provides opportunities to develop personal brands, learn valuable entrepreneurial skills, and profit from their hard work and dedication. By debunking these common misconceptions about NIL, we can better understand and appreciate the positive impact NIL has on college athletics.
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