- Courtney Altemus, Founder and CEO, TeamAltemus
- Jack Swarbrick, Director of Athletics, University of Notre Dame
- Julie Cromer, Director of Athletics, Ohio University
- Matt Elliott, Senior Associate AD – Internal Operations, UCLA
On Wednesday, April 15, 2020, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar for its member institutions discussing various strategies to prepare athletics departments, including compliance officers, for a world with name, image and likeness (NIL). The webinar was led by Courtney Altemus, Founder and CEO of TeamAltemus, Jack Swarbrick, Vice President and Director of Athletics at the University of Notre Dame, Julie Cromer, Director of Athletics at Ohio University and Matt Elliott, Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). With approximately 500 attendees on the webinar, this was LEAD1’s highest-attended virtual event, since beginning its series of virtual events for its member athletics departments last month.
Although the panel acknowledged that the current focus of the nation, including athletics departments, is to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 with respect to the well-being of all those affected, the panelists agreed that given the amount of work that has already been accomplished on the NIL issue, it is appropriate to also examine other important challenges that the industry faces ahead.
The panel began their discussion by highlighting how an NIL model could help augment the student-athlete experience and better prepare student-athletes for the real world. At the same time, the panel mentioned the possibility of an NIL model potentially helping athletics department staff better understand the range of opportunities that now exist for student-athletes (such as the opportunity to earn money in the digital media landscape). In this vein, the panel focused on potential NIL opportunities for all student-athletes, not just “elite” athletes, to possibly earn NIL compensation. For example, the panel made the point that student-athletes, even in non-revenue sports, could have monetization opportunities as social media influencers, instructors in youth sports, business owners, authors and other activities based on their quality of work (and not necessarily based upon their popularity as an athlete).
The panel also discussed the importance of athletics departments helping student-athletes navigate whatever NIL model comes to exist by providing educating and utilizing their own resources such as professors on campus, alumni who have created their own businesses and internal resources within their departments (such as career services). The panel, however, acknowledged some of the challenges that may exist with respect to illicit recruiting abuses, where potential boosters, donors or other outside third parties pay NIL money to student-athletes, which, in reality, are recruiting inducements.
In short, the panel outlined some of the commonalties and challenges that likely apply to all LEAD1 member institutions regardless of the eventual NIL model implemented. This will help athletics departments better prepare for the potential realities that lie ahead.