The NCAA announced that it will allow student-athletes throughout the country to profit from their name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) starting on July 1, 2021, which marks a major shift from the NCAA’s longstanding amateurism model. So far, nine states—including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon, and Illinois—have signed NIL legislation to take effect on July 1.
Neither the NCAA nor the federal government have addressed NIL laws, which has made for a fragmented model that varies from state to state. For example, Georgia’s NIL law allows for team pooling arrangements whereby student athletes who receive compensation for the use of their name, image, or likeness agree to contribute a portion of the compensation they receive to a fund for the benefit of other student-athletes. Mississippi’s NIL law even authorizes student-athletes to hire agents to negotiate marketing opportunities.
Some student-athletes have already started taking advantage of this seismic shift in college sports. University of Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz recently tweeted a video of his new trademark, and University of Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon tweeted a picture of his new apparel brand.
It will be interesting to see how NIL laws change the college landscape. Recruiting is one of many areas where NIL laws may have an effect. For example, a highly touted prospect with endorsements deals on the horizon might be swayed from School A to School B if School B is in a state with a less restrictive NIL law. It will also be interesting to see how colleges and universities respond to their student-athletes’ outside endorsements. What if a student-athlete signs a contract that conflicts with school policy or with the school’s pre-existing sponsors? Navigating NIL laws may present some obstacles, and might very well add a unique layer of intrigue and drama to college sports this season.