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On Tuesday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) released its latest episode of the “LEAD1 Angle with Tom McMillen.” LEAD1 President and CEO, McMillen, sat down with Lyle Adams, CEO at Spry, a comprehensive platform that helps athletic departments adapt to the NIL landscape, particularly with regard to how student-athletes can disclose their prospective NIL opportunities, while helping institutions identify potential conflicts. Spry’s main priorities are to keep student-athletes eligible (compliant), while increasing the efficiency of athletic departments and prioritizing student-athlete education.
If Adams’ name sounds familiar – it should. Adams and Spry have been a big LEAD1 supporter during this pandemic, most notably as the presenting partner for LEAD1’s virtual spring meeting. His team is also helping LEAD1 athletic departments better prepare for NIL changes coming soon. Adams’ story is admirable – he’s a former LEAD1 student-athlete, professional soccer player, and following his playing career, was one of the first employees at Uber. Those experiences, Adams describes, led to the creation of Spry. As an early Uber employee, Adams learned supply chain management , product and engineering tactics, which serve as a major influence for Spry’s platform and infrastructure.
In the interview, Adams discusses the intersection between NIL and technology. With thousands of potential student-athlete NIL deals among Division I college sports, and compliance departments limited to a couple of staff people, technology, according to Adams, can be used to effectively track disclosure of NIL deals and build intelligence in monitoring deals over time. Adams’ philosophy is aligned with LEAD1’s NIL Working Group’s principles, which has advocated for disclosure of all NIL deals, and using technology to help ensure regulatory compliance, including monitoring agent and booster activity. Spry’s platform, for example, can alert student-athletes whether agents are registered with the school and has similar software to identify conflict areas with boosters. Spry’s platform has extensive reporting functionality, which can identify opportunities that could be potentially harmful or malicious in nature.
McMillen asked Adams “what keeps you up at night?” Adams responded by bringing up a fairly buried point in the NIL conversation –some of the unintended consequences of NIL, particularly Pell Grant eligibility. In general, students whose total family income is $50,000 a year or less qualify for Pell Grants. Pell Grant calculations are based upon a number of factors including cost of attendance (which varies by institution), status as a full-time student, and other considerations. Accordingly, student-athletes need to consider whether NIL endorsements are lucrative enough to potentially sacrifice their financial aid.
While Adams believes that NIL will be a tremendous opportunity [for at least half of all student-athletes to earn some additional cash], in addition to being a real-life apprenticeship opportunity, with opportunity comes some risk. Adams’ platform, Spry, can help LEAD1 athletic departments mitigate such risks.