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How People Inside College Sports Would Change NIL Rules

by michelle
Published: Updated:

Recap: Nigel Hayes, a former basketball player at Wisconsin, probably wishes he was five years younger. While at Wisconsin, he was a top player and made back to back final four appearances. During that time, Hayes had aspirations to start a clothing brand, but the current rules in the NCAA didn’t allow it. Although he has since started his own clothing brand, Hayes doesn’t have the national attention he had while in college. An example of his clout while at Wisconsin was when the privately owned University Bookstore listed a t-shirt for sale utilizing quotes from Hayes; it sold out before the school could shut it down. Hayes was not only not compensated per NCAA rules, but was only able to get his hands on a shirt from a Badger fan.

Observations: With a collegiate athlete’s personal brand so intertwined with their sport and the NCAA’s push to not allow athletes to utilize their association with the school, compliance officers are going to have their hands full. Besides the obvious no no’s (ex wearing a school jersey in a paid advertisement), there will be plenty of exceptions and one-off type situations that will require precedents to be set. I anticipate it being very difficult in the first few years to keep consistency across all the universities.


Nigel Hayes wanted to capitalize on the national attention he was receiving as a star member of a Wisconsin basketball team bound for back-to-back Final Four appearances.

He hoped to put his business school learnings to use by starting a clothing brand. Product promotion at the peak of his fame would be straightforward considering the fanfare even his mild postgame comments received. If successful, he figured the startup could provide long-term earnings beyond the hardwood.

Conversations with an academic advisor, however, made it clear his plan would not be permitted under NCAA rules that barred players from profiting off their name, image and likeness. What would be allowed for non-athletes at Wisconsin was off limits to him.

That stung. It still does.

So while Hayes is pleased to hear about a recently proposed NCAA rule set for January vote that would finally permit student-athletes seek sponsorships and business opportunities — a significant change for an organization that’s long held its ground against player compensation — he remains mindful of all of those innovative minds who, like him, were kept from advancing their business ambitions while in school. He’s still wary of a system he views as built to take financial advantage of its best players.

“Given the popularity I had and my team had, whatever I decided to do would have sold like hotcakes,” Hayes told Sporting News. “It’s good now though that the opportunity (will be) there, but I know for sure that if it would have been something I was allowed to do, the sky would have definitely been the limit with that.”


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