And now? More than a month has passed since the beginning of this new era. We’re only weeks away from the start of the 2021 NCAA fall season. Yet, despite our own previous predictions that the NIL hype would increase with the dawn of the first athletic season under these new rules, the NIL has seemed to drift away from the public eye. With the exception of an occasional article about a major college athletic star signing a major endorsement deal, or the most recent signing of Florida State to ‘cash in on crypto’, the sports media has become awfully quiet about what was thought to be such a paradigmatic shift in the world of college athletics, and indeed, athletics in general.
This is not to say, of course, that there has been no major NIL news in the last month. On the contrary, many athletes continue to ink major NIL deals that would have been previously unthinkable. University of Miami quarterback D’Eriq King recently signed an endorsement deal with the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei announced a deal with Dr. Pepper, one of the NCAA’s biggest sponsors. And new Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is allegedly making almost $1 million in NIL deals, according to reports. All of this is major news of course. And yet, the general public has mainly avoided reporting on the implications beneath the surface of what these deals signify; that money talks in college sports, and now it does for athletes also.
In the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in NCAA v. Alston this past June, the Court essentially ruled that the NCAA’s business model, if it was applied to any other business in the country, would be unacceptable to federal antitrust laws. While this case did not directly concern NIL rules, it did symbolize a major change that the NCAA would be unable to constantly emphasize the presumed amateurism of college sports anymore. More importantly, this decline of amateurism in college sports has begun to play itself out in the world of college athletics with the start of the NIL era. Student-athletes were once treated as if they were almost indebted to the universities they represented on the playing field, given very little rights despite what their roles essentially were for these college athletic programs: employees.
As a result of the business model the NCAA practiced with regards to collegiate athletes, these athletes were given very little opportunity to receive anything - other than an education and (for some) scholarships - for the work they provided to their university’s athletic program. With the Supreme Court’s rejection of this business model, combined with the dawn of the NIL era, college athletes are finally welcome to receive compensation of sorts for their work. Yet this does not apply to all athletes. Many, if not all, of the reports about collegiate athletes signing NIL deals concern major collegiate athletes, blue chip prospects that play at top programs and are in contention for national honors. This brings many questions to the forefront. First, where does this leave minor collegiate-athletes, like the senior benchwarmer small forward for a mid-major program who cannot make thousands of dollars in NIL endorsements and is not on a scholarship? And how will this dynamic affect team chemistry? Just as important is a question we’ve been asking for months now; how will NIL endorsements affect college athletics midseason? For decades, if a college running back rushed for 250 yards in primetime, the conversation the next day would be “How did this player’s performance affect their campaign for the Heisman Trophy?” Now, the conversation after such a fantastic game may be “Will this performance result in an NIL endorsement deal with Dr. Pepper?” We continue to be curious as to what the rules will be about signing NIL deals midseason.
The reports about NIL deals in the media have died down in the almost month-and-a-half since the NIL era started in college sports. But rest assured, the effects of NIL on college athletes continues to be incredibly important in the world of college sports. From the massive NIL deals of 5-star athletes to the potential effects of NIL on college sports as a business, the dawn of the NIL era will continue to cast a large shadow on college athletics as the upcoming NCAA fall season begins.
How can LAC help you to determine your next steps not only as it pertains to the NIL, but to your college admissions experience as a whole? Do not hesitate to contact us today!