While the NCAA rakes in billion dollars per year from advertisements and ticket sales, the athletes whose talent and sacrifice make that revenue possible couldn’t financially benefit from their own success without jeopardizing their eligibility.
But, this summer, this arguably exploitative model took a huge blow when a Supreme Court ruling placed legal pressure on the organization to amend its Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules which allow college student-athletes to monetize their brands. As a result, athletes can enter contractual agreements with businesses to feature them in advertisements or products and use their “own status as a college athlete to promote their own public appearances or companies.”
Congress has yet to enact federal NIL law, but their ruling resulted in a set of NCAA temporary rules and related state laws which immediately allowed NCAA athletes to begin pursuing these business ventures.
Even absent of federal legislation, this is a game-changer.
From the outside in, it’s easy to assume that the new NIL rules pave a road to fame and major fortune for student-athletes. And while the brand partnerships that result in endorsement deals and sponsored advertisements can be lucrative, for some students, turning their popularity into profitability is not all about purchasing expensive cars, jewelry and living a celebrity lifestyle.
Instead, a more accurate reality is that the income generated from NIL opportunities could bridge the growing gap between scholarship and survival. With the average cost of tuition hovering around $30,000 per year for most private institutions, NIL contracts could subsidize tuition and other expenses that would otherwise be left for students and their families to figure out. For athletes who can spend 50 hours a week on athletics and work as hard as professional athletes while juggling their academic careers, it seems only fair that they should be allowed to monetize their success accordingly.
As this new arena of opportunity and guidelines are still developing, athletes need guidance and support to avoid the dangers that money can bring. Mentorship and management are a must.
Here’s how colleges can help student-athletes avoid the pitfalls that can come with profitability:
Education: Money knowledge is power. Traditional business courses and providing mandatory, specialized training through athletic departments can offer students the information they need to make better decisions about new business ventures.
Expertise: Expert insight and guidance from professionals can help athletes broker deals that protect their interests. Seeking advice from experienced agents and attorneys can be the difference between a great opportunity and a costly obstacle that can impact an athlete’s financial future.
Exploration: Encourage athletes to be discriminate about the ventures and deals they enter into and to explore all options. While it’s tempting to take advantage of everything that comes their way, students should be cautious. Contracts should only be established with brands they believe in. Athletes should use these opportunities to not just make money, but to align themselves with companies that reflect their personal values.
Whenever we think of athletes and money, the image of the riches to rags story almost always comes to mind. While this outcome is far too familiar, the truth is money mismanagement doesn’t have to be the outcome for every athlete. It’s true that most college student-athletes don’t have the maturity or experience to navigate this new world alone at first. But the answer isn’t avoiding opportunities—it’s adding to the wise village around them to ensure that they build bankable brands, successfully.