NIL, Employee Status, and College Athletics Fundraising


  • Scott Roberts, Vice President of Development at Oklahoma State University (Moderator)
  • Dr. Mónica Lebrón, Deputy Director of Athletics at University of Tennessee
  • Ross Bjork, Director of Athletics at Texas A&M University
  • Sean Frazier, Vice President/Director of Athletics and Recreation at Northern Illinois University

Webinar Recap

LEAD1 Hosts Virtual Forum on the Campus Response to NIL and Possible Employment Issues

NIL collectives have not displaced athletics department fundraising to this point, according to the panelists.

Prepared by LEAD1 Association


Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rule changes and the potential classification of student-athletes as employees continues to transform the college athletics enterprise. That is why, on Thursday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar with some of its very own to explore some of the short and long-term impacts of these trends on college athletics. Here are some of the important takeaways from the webinar.

  • Although many agree that NIL collectives will impact traditional athletic department funding, according to the athletics departments on this panel, at least to this point, we have not seen this happen yet. The panel generally agreed that institutional affinity has not yet changed and should not be expected to change with NIL. “Universities were here long before we got here, and they’ll be here long after we’re gone,” said Mónica Lebrón, the Deputy Athletics Director at the University of Tennessee. “There is no structure without the university, and there is no game without the student-athletes,” said Ross Bjork, the Director of Athletics at Texas A&M.
  • Athletics departments must collaborate and utilize campus resources like their Offices of General Counsel, Employment Office, government relations staff, and other relevant entities on campus. On the NIL front, due to differences in state legislation, with some states like Illinois now amending their NIL laws to incorporate more athletics departments involvement or facilitation, athletics departments are at the mercy of their state laws and the possible modification of them. Because a broad range of areas within college athletics may be affected by these regulatory issues such as scholarships, Pell Grants, and, Title IX, the panelists agreed that an open line of communication across campus is critical to ensure compliance with state and federal legislation, as well as other administrative rulings. “Let’s stay nimble to evolve and adapt,” said Sean Frazier, Vice President/Director of Athletics at Northern Illinois University.
  • To this point, athletes have not had a big voice in the employment conversation, but athletics directors are the practitioners closest to them to know what they want. “If you ask student-athletes they’ll say, “I want to go to class, I want to compete at the highest level, I want to get my degree, I want to go professional, I want a good job. And, if I can make a little money while I’m here in school I’m good with that,” said Bjork. In other words, a classification of student-athletes as employees may be contrary to what the athletes want.
  • There is skepticism of the possibility for NIL being regulated at the conference level. The thought is that regulating NIL at the conference level would be the same as the current playing field sparked by the different state laws. “Maybe the conferences could step in, but I think it would put us right in the same position that we’re in now where we’re all frustrated that each state is different,” said Bjork. In that light, the panelists agreed that national standards are needed from a national governing body or the Congress, as opposed to disparate regulations at the local level.

More in the recording can be found on the intersection between NIL, the employment status of student-athletes and the campus response to these trends.