- Tom McMillen, President & CEO, LEAD1 Association (Moderator)
- Lyle Adams, Founder & CEO, Spry
- Courtney Altemus, Founder & CEO, TeamAltemus
- Jim Cavale, Founder & CEO, INFLCR
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in NCAA v. Alston and the rise of name, image, and likeness (NIL) has made this summer one of the most transformative ever for college sports. With schools now administering their own NIL policies, and student-athletes free to monetize their NIL, the dust has begun to settle. In that regard, LEAD1 Association’s (LEAD1’s) latest webinar focused on lessons learned from the first month of NIL in college sports. The webinar, moderated by LEAD1 CEO and President, Tom McMillen, featured, Jim Cavale, Founder and CEO at INFLCR, Courtney Altemus, Founder & CEO at TeamAltemus, and Lyle Adams, Founder & CEO at Spry, all major NIL players. Here are some of the key takeaways from the forum:
- To the surprise of some student-athletes, NIL is not automatic. The panel made the point that some student-athletes have encouraged commercial entities to message them on their social media accounts for possible NIL engagement. But for most student-athletes, NIL will not come that easy. So, there is this misconception among student-athletes that NIL opportunities will automatically flow their way, but generally that is not the case.
- Given that NIL is not automatic, for student-athletes to monetize their NIL, there must be a balance between athletic performance and branding initiative. Simply, in addition to athletic performance, the more that student-athletes can effectively message their story on social media, the more business opportunities that may arise.
- But with more opportunities, come more disparities. Some student-athletes will have more success than others depending upon how well they can message their brand. This may lead to more disparities among teams, and inherently in college sports, however, there are already great disparities in our enterprise, such as geography and conference, so this is something college sports will adapt to.
- Education is critical, but student-athletes must be careful with agents and advisors. There are many new responsibilities that come with NIL such as entrepreneurship, taxes, reading contracts, increased time management and more. As more and more agents or advisors get involved in the NIL space, student-athletes must consider the pros and cons with possible retainment of such individuals. Getting professional advice from unbiased practitioners and third parties can be very useful, however, in some cases, agents and advisors may be inherently biased based upon their possible skin in the game (i.e., commission at stake). In addition, professional sports agents may not automatically be the best people to help secure collegiate NIL opportunities. So while student-athletes have to balance their time, and agents and advisors can save them some time, picking the right people will help ensure smart short and long-term decision-making.
- No one is quite sure who the NIL sheriff will be. In terms of enforcement, will states enforce their laws? Which school or conference will be the first to crack down on NIL abuse? This is one of the big elephants in the NIL room and the answer is still very uncertain, however, as the NCAA decentralizes, conferences will have more of an opportunity to create their own regulatory and enforcement systems.
- Universal reporting requirements could be helpful, but there are legal concerns. A centralized repository system of NIL deals could be helpful for student-athletes to make informed decisions when negotiating deals and for the college sports enterprise to help determine what deals are reasonable, however, any restriction, even mere reporting requirements, could subject institutions and conferences to legal scrutiny.
- A federal solution could help address some of these issues, but as we get deeper and deeper into NIL, a federal solution may be harder to implement. With schools and conferences having great discretion to create their own NIL policies, there is less pressure on Congress to act on NIL, however, group licensing, use of school marks, and possible unionization among student-athletes could underscore the need for Congress to act sooner than later.