This article was initially written as a Guest Post for the American Volleyball Coaches Association and appeared HERE.
June 24, 2021 │ By Michelle Meyer
If you’re similar to the college coaches that I’ve spoken to recently, you’re aware that NCAA Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) reform is coming soon. However, you aren’t quite sure how this is going to affect your athletes, your team, and your university. To be clear, nobody knows yet.
On July 1, collegiate athletes in six states (Florida, Alabama, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi) will be permitted to monetize their NIL. There is also a strong possibility that the NCAA passes NIL reform to cover all states at their meetings later this month. In my opinion, they can’t afford not to.
Regardless of the NCAA passing sweeping legislation or not, the first months of NIL are bound to be chaotic and confusing. As a college coach, being proactive NOW and taking simple steps to educate yourself before this goes into effect will have a positive impact on your athletes, team culture, and may even help your recruiting game.
KNOW WHAT RULES YOU’RE NIL’ING BY
At the time of writing this (Sunday, June 20), 19 states have passed their own NIL bills and there are four more sitting on the respective Governor’s desk for signature.
While the state NIL bills are similar, there are subtleties in them that could affect your athletes and their eligibility. There are differences in reporting requirements (some states require athletes to report deals seven days in advance while others don’t specify a timeframe or even require reporting), deal opportunities (New Mexico allows athletes to sign shoe endorsements regardless of the institution’s existing contract with a shoe brand), and requirements for representation (Oklahoma’s NIL bill dedicates around 20 pages to defining an agent and their roles).
Familiarize yourself with your state NIL bill, where it’s at in the legislative processes, and any nuances that make it unique.
Even though the NCAA may pass NIL reform before the end of June, state bills trump the NCAA. For those states with effective NIL laws, the institutions and athletes will be playing by their state laws until a federal NIL bill is passed. For states without NIL laws, it is still unclear what their rules will look like.
UNDERSTAND THE SERVICES AVAILABLE FOR YOUR ATHLETES
Universities have been partnering with 3rd party NIL companies at a rapid pace in 2021. In fact, over 80% of the Power 5 schools have an NIL resource of some kind in place for their athletes to utilize once the legislation goes into effect. These offerings vary greatly: some schools are focused on education and compliance while others are focused on building the athlete’s brand and optimizing their social media to ensure the greatest opportunity to cash in on NIL. There’s one thing they all have in common: Comprehensive NIL services are the new “shiny locker room” that programs and coaches can use to entice recruits.
If your athletic department is offering an NIL resource, learn about it and how it may help your athletes succeed. If your school hasn’t yet partnered with an NIL company, ask your administrator if there is a plan or timeline in place. Outside of your athletic department, does your university offer a course on entrepreneurship, personal branding, or social media marketing? These are all good places to steer your athletes towards.
Outside of the resources provided by your institution, your athletes may utilize other services to help them monetize their NIL. There are a plethora of digital marketplaces that connect athletes with endorsements and other NIL opportunities (a staggering THIRTY companies last time I checked!), branding & marketing agencies, financial experts, accounting & tax services, attorneys, and sports agents that are looking to work directly with your players. I anticipate that, at a minimum, athletes will register on a handful of the digital marketplaces and that most of their NIL deals will be negotiated through these platforms.
Familiarizing yourself with these companies will help you understand what your athletes are doing and may help you communicate with prospects as NIL starts becoming part of the recruiting conversation.
TALK TO YOUR ATHLETES ABOUT NIL
Once you’re comfortable with your NIL rules and services available, schedule a meeting to discuss them with your team. It’s imperative that you open the communication lines surrounding NIL early, make your athletes aware that you are supportive of their NIL endeavors, and put some guidelines in place.
One of the top concerns that I’ve heard from coaches is keeping their athletes eligible as they navigate NIL; taking initiative and setting the framework via a team meeting is a great first step.
Although it may turn out that only a handful of your players are looking to take advantage of these new opportunities and you can’t actually help them secure deals, being transparent about this chaotic and confusing space will make you more approachable when they have questions about NIL. Also, a team meeting will help you understand which of your players are looking to monetize their NIL, how they intend to do it, and what the potential impact NIL might have on your team next season.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR BOOSTERS
How to control boosters in the NIL era is an issue that hasn’t been worked out yet. While it may put an end to some of the illegal “under the table” deals of the past few decades, it’s possible that NIL will open up a whole new realm of boosters persuading PSAs to attend their school via endorsement promises. While this is prohibited in every NIL bill thus far, boosters are notoriously creative and have the ability to work their way around NCAA rules.
Even though it’s still unclear in what capacity, if any, boosters will be permitted to partner with individual athletes, early communication will help set the tone and position yourself as the “point person” for NIL education.
Share information with your boosters as you learn it and always reiterate that in such a new and unknown time, your athletes’ eligibility is the number one priority. Let them know that while you can’t be a part of any NIL deals, you can do your best to answer their questions and get them the information that they need.
As we move into this new era of collegiate athletics, your athletes will be afforded new freedoms and opportunities that will help them grow professionally, develop life-long personal skills, and potentially build their savings to put them in a good financial position after graduation. However, as with any significant change, there will be growing pains as institutions, coaches, athletes, brands, and NIL companies navigate this space without much guidance. The best anyone in a leadership role can do in situations like this is to learn as much as possible, over communicate, and be transparent. Following these simple steps should put you in a great position to take control of NIL. Good luck!
About the Author: Michelle Meyer, a former D1 volleyball coach, launched NIL Network in December of 2020 to help athletes, coaches, and administrators successfully navigate NIL reform. She is currently developing a workshop for college coaches, “Coaching in the NIL Era” and one for college teams “Know Your NIL”. Both are launching in July. You can learn more about the workshops here.
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Reach out via email: Michelle@nilnetwork.com