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Looking Back on the NIL and its Impact in 2023
Charting the Current Landscape of Student Athletes' Earnings
It’s been 2 years since the NCAA has allowed high school and college students to sign NIL deals with 3rd party agents. The change in system brought in a lot of discussion back in the day so this week’s article will look into what has changed since then, and whether or not this has improved the ecosystem for student athletes.
The Evolution of the NIL: Empowering College Athletes
In the vast and ever-evolving world of college sports, there's been a significant transformation centered on three crucial letters: NIL. This stands for "name, image, and likeness" and has become a beacon of change for student athletes, especially those who, in the past, couldn't profit from their own persona.
For years, while universities, broadcasters, and other entities reaped the benefits, players could not personally profit due to restrictions placed upon them by the NCAA. This means a star quarterback couldn't earn from endorsements, or a standout basketball player couldn't sell merchandise with their image. The ruling was often criticized, as it was perceived as an unfair advantage that the NCAA held over the students. After all, these students provided immense value, packing stadiums, appearing on national television, and bringing immense pride and often financial gain to their respective schools.
Then, in 2021, a big court decision changed everything. The court said that the NCAA couldn't stop players from making money related to their education. That meant states and schools started making new rules. But there are still some things players can't do: they can't get paid just for playing, and they can't make deals that say, "I'll play for you if you give me this deal."
Now, many college athletes are signing deals to promote products, team up with local businesses, and even get agents, just like professional athletes. This change is a big win for them, letting them benefit from their hard work and talent.
Things that Players Can Do to Make Money:
Appear in Ad Campaigns / Commercials
Sell Merchandise and Goods on Social Network Accounts
Mention Brand Names / Products
Make Paid Appearances
Stirring Up The Early Controversies
Some believe that the NIL can be misused. Nick Saban, a renowned football coach, expressed concerns that teams could essentially "buy" players using NIL deals, disturbing the competitive nature of college sports. A remark that sparked controversy when he suggested that a rival team, Texas A&M, had done just that. The rebuttal from Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M's head coach, was swift and sharp, highlighting the tension and differences in opinion surrounding the new NIL era.
In fact, the worries of how the sports program would change have been on the top of the board ever since the discussion was brought up. Members of the NCAA have shown concerns with the change in regulations, as they have strictly stated that the purpose the NCAA program is centered around the ‘Student’ aspect rather than the ‘Athlete’ aspect. A rather familiar term used in the iconic basketball movie ‘Coach Carter’.
The controversy makes sense though. Monetizing a student’s value before entering the professional stage will deviate the player’s attention from the actual grind. Not only will these deals take attention away from players actually becoming good players, but it can also ruin the quality of student athletic programs, especially for school that don’t have high recruit players.
Similar arguments can be brought up for Big Baller Brand, launched in 2016 by Lavar Ball, as critics argued that Ball used his basketball prospect sons (Liangelo / Lonzo / Lamelo) as a viral marketing tool. The Ball brothers would eventually silence the critics as they entered the NBA, but that’s another story.
A Glance at the NIL Today
Contrary to initial fears that only the star athletes would rake in the big bucks, the NIL landscape is much more egalitarian. It's not just about how good you are in the game, but also about your charisma, your story, and your potential appeal to different brands. From the second-string player to the leading goal scorer, from volleyball to basketball, athletes across the spectrum are finding financial opportunities.
Many had assumed that the powerhouse universities with big pockets would dominate the NIL scene. However, the reverse seems to be taking shape. Smaller schools, with the allure of local sponsorships and a tight-knit community, can offer athletes unique financial opportunities not available at bigger institutions.
College is all about preparing for the real world, and NIL has added another dimension to this education. Athletes are now getting crash courses in financial literacy, understanding contracts, and managing their own small businesses. This real-world experience is invaluable, setting them up for future financial successes.
Athletes That Have Benefited With the NIL:
Bryce Young : Accumulated Over $3.5 Mil After Sugar Bowl in 2021
Sunisa Lee : $1.5 Mil After Performance in 2021 Tokyo Olympics Gymnastics
Texas Tech Football Program : $25,000 Base Salary For All Scholarship Players
Rayquan Smith : Signed More Than 70 NIL Deals in Senior Year
Yet, the road hasn't been without its bumps. The rise of collectives, while innovative, toes a fine line. They're walking the tightrope between providing opportunities for athletes and potentially sidestepping the rules laid down by the NCAA. It's a gray area, and as with anything new, it will take time to refine and understand fully.
Despite the challenges, the introduction of NIL to college sports has been, by many accounts, a resounding success. It acknowledges the hard work, dedication, and brand value of the athletes, ensuring they are rewarded for their contributions. As we continue to adapt to this new era, it's exciting to see where the journey will take college sports in the future.
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