One year into the Name, Image, & Likeness era: Benefits & Drawbacks

July 1 signals one year since college athletes earned the right to earn money from endorsement deals
Exploring the new world of college sports
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 8:28 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -College athletes have forever been considered amateurs. While they still cannot be paid for playing their sport at a university, college athletics is about to enter year two of the Name, Image, & Likeness era that allows athletes to profit from endorsements. According to one man who helps athletes understand all there is to gain in today’s world, business is booming.

“From a big picture standpoint, Name, Image, & Likeness has created so many opportunities across sports and across genders,” said Luke Fedlam, a non-agent sports attorney and founder of Anomaly Sports Group.

Fedlam travels around the nation, visiting schools and summits. Now that athletes’ wallets are open, he wants to make sure their eyes and ears are as well, as NIL deals aren’t just for the quarterbacks and their new cars.

“We’ve seen lacrosse players earn hundreds of thousands of dollars through Name, Image, and Likeness,” said Fedlam. “We’ve also seen athletes at mid-major schools who aren’t the elite of the elite athletes in revenue producing sports.”

If such figures seem outlandish, it might be because society isn’t used to seeing mega-deals go to those who are unproven. Fedlam believes companies actively seek college athletes because of their ability to connect to the modern consumer.

“This new generation of college student athletes have grown up living in the social media world and have followings that are significant,” said Fedlam. “So they’ve been able to earn compensation because of their following and their ability to influence on social media.”

A recent example came this spring when a handful of Florida Gator gymnasts signed an NIL deal with College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving, a union, that on the surface, appeared to be incongruous.

“Brands want a return on their investment,” said Fedlam. “They want to do an endorsement deal with someone that’s going to help them penetrate a particular demographic or a consumer base they haven’t filled those ties with.”

Power Five universities like Florida are often located outside the major metroplexes. The presence of NIL in their towns has a chance to boost companies.

“We see local brands, local restaurants, local businesses, they’re now able to have an athlete endorse their product or service in ways in which they’ve never been able to because the price point is lower for them to enter into this space,” said Fedlam.

NIL has its greatest impact within. Money is now a presence in locker rooms, and along with it, comes the potential for division.

“That’s just another duty and responsibility of coaches, and it’s always been,” said Fedlam. “We’ve always seen star athletes get more attention or press. There’s definitely some new hurdles.”

Given the modern state of college athletics, schools like Florida have set up collectives to aid their existing athletes. They cannot, however promise recruits or transfers NIL agreements as a means of getting that player on campus. But the NCAA only made that amendment after two football national signing days had already passed.

“There’s no manual for this in college football,” said Florida head football coach Billy Napier at a media availability on May 26. “Because there is an opportunity to have representation for NIL, you’ve seen that trend. There’s a lot of gray area here relative to representation, what I can say, what I can’t say, what the third party can do, what they can’t do.”

That could be why the Gator Collective recently dispelled a rumor that prized 2023 recruit Jaden Rashada was offered an NIL package worth millions. Rashada gave his verbal commitment to Miami last weekend, amid speculation as to what might have been promised.

“Any time money is involved you’re going to have people who come in and flood the space,” said Fedlam. “There’s a big question mark as it relates to the NCAA’s enforceability. I think what most people believe is there will be a particular school that the NCAA enforcement group brings the hammer down on.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily more than there was in the past in terms of people who want to surround themselves, or were around the recruits and wanted to get attention ‚” said Florida men’s basketball coach Todd Golden at a media availability on May 26. “But it definitely adds another layer in the recruiting process and sifting through what’s important for the student athlete.”

Given the competitive stakes, and the amount of dollars on the line, year two of NIL will no doubt be intriguing. It may present just as many questions as opportunities.

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