Starting today (July 1), all NCAA athletes are allowed to accept payment for use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). The NCAA offered up some interim policy guidelines as some states have passed legislation and some have not, but we wanted to get more info. In order to do that, we went to the expert.
Matt Brown, the creator and publisher of Extra Points — a publication that dives into the world of college athletics off the field/court — and SB Nation alum, joined us for a quick Q&A about all things NIL. You can find Matt on Twitter at @MattBrownEP.
Note: this interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Streaking the Lawn: So, let’s get to it. What exactly happens on July 1 with NIL?
Matt Brown: This is actually a more complicated question than you might think, because as we’re talking right now, state and NCAA regulations could change. But as of this moment, on July 1, all athletes will be able to monetize their name, image and likeness. The NCAA is working on a blanket policy that will allow schools to set their own name, image, and likeness rules if they don’t live in state that has a law — which could potentially be more permissive than a state law — but the TLDR is most athletes will be able to sell a sign an autograph, give a softball class, and get cold hard cash, without losing their eligibility.
STL: How did this all come about, and what role did the government play in all of this?
MB: The government has definitely been the main catalyst for the change that is happening. It started in California two years ago with California passing a state law saying that the NCAA can’t punish athletes who enter into name, image, and likeness deals. Florida followed suit, and Florida really poured gas on the fire, because while California’s law technically isn’t supposed to go into effect for like two more years, Florida’s went into effect July 1.
Then a bunch of other SEC states realized, well we can’t let Florida have an advantage, so they passed laws that match Florida’s timetable. That’s not an ideal situation because then you have a bunch of different states, all with slightly different laws about what’s going to be allowed and what the reporting structure looks like, and colleges, and the NCAA would like a federal national standard. The only entity that can really provide that right now is the federal government, and the Senate has been debating bills now for a year and a half and are kind of close to having something ready but it won’t be ready by July 1. It will probably happen later this fall.
STL: Let’s talk about Virginia, which doesn’t have a law in place yet. What does this mean for UVA athletes?
MB: If your law won’t go into effect for a couple of years, you can either have your governor issued an executive order or your legislature to adjust it, which is what’s happening in California, what’s happened in Ohio and Kentucky with executive orders, or you can use the generic rules. Which means that then Virginia could theoretically create a different name, image, and likeness policy than Old Dominion or Radford. I would expect Virginia to release some kind of statement to their college athletes today or tomorrow or, you know ASAP, explaining here’s what’s going to be allowed, here’s what you need to report to our athletic department, and here are some preferred vendors. But it is a big question right now if you are wanting to work with a Virginia athlete, do you reach out to the school? Opendorse? Do you just DM an athlete directly? It’s been different every time.
STL: Having this vagueness seems to be a nightmare for the NCAA and schools. Do you worry about under the table payments? What type of limitations do you anticipate around the kinds of deals student athletes engage in?
MB: There were a lot of administrators that were pushing for, you know, to make sure that the deals couldn’t exceed what would be considered market value, but nobody really knows how to define market value, and those rules would probably be struck down in court. So theoretically if you want to be a bag man and launder your bag-manning through small business, I think you could. I don’t think you’re gonna actually see a lot of that happening because if you’re a bag man, it’s easier just keep bag-manning under the table. If you do it with your business, now your investors are involved, and the IRS, and your other employees, and it becomes riskier.
A lot of states have passed rules, and some schools have house rules limiting certain industries. Those industries — it varies a little bit from state to state — but are generally can’t do anything with an alcohol company, and honestly, I’d be surprised if that happens anywhere, because the major trade associations for alcohol say you can’t use actors under 25. So you might do something with a bar, but you’re probably not going to see, a Virginia basketball player cracking open a Coors. You’re going to see those against tobacco. You’re going to see a lot of them against gambling, but where that’s going to get tricky is in a state like Colorado where the school itself has a deal with a sports book. If the school is entering into those relationships it’s gonna get hard to keep players from doing that. You’re gonna see prohibitions against anything related to CBD or cannabis, and you’re gonna see prohibitions against anything related to porn.
STL: One phrase thrown around a lot is “pay for play.” What does that mean in this context?
MB: Yeah, so what these schools, or at least school leaders don’t want — and this is kind of like their big red line for everything — is they don’t want to establish an employee-employer relationship. How amateurism is defined has changed a lot over the years, but the current company line is: we don’t want you to get endorsement money exclusively because of something you did on the field. So you couldn’t sign an endorsement deal that said I’ll give you 100 bucks for every touchdown you score, or I’ll give you this money only because you are you are playing. In practice, that’s going to be really hard to regulate and considering we’re still going through the punishment process for the last FBI college basketball scandal, no one’s actually going to get in trouble for doing this. I still really think the bulk of these, especially the early deals, are going to be relatively small in scope, a lot of them are going to go to women and Olympic sport athletes, and they’re going to be about social media.
STL: In your opinion, is this NIL stuff a good thing?
MB: I think this is awesome, and I’ll tell you why. I kind of alluded to it here, but the single biggest group, especially at a school like Virginia, that I think will benefit here are women. The biggest reason for that is for a Virginia football player who misses out on some potential name, image, and likeness opportunities, or a Virginia men’s basketball player, and they go on to play professionally, it sucks, but they left 30 grand on the table. If they’re a fifth round draft pick, they’re still going to make 300 grand like the next year, or even if they’re playing in France, they’re going to make a lot of money. If you’re a woman athlete, in most cases, that life-changing salary is not available to you. You’re at your most famous and your most marketable when you’re in college. To lose out on those opportunities really deprives you, I think, of a much more significant percentage of your earning potential than it does for a man. The other exciting news about this is that you make money here isn’t limited by how good you are, what school you attend. It’s really a different skill set. It’s how good you are on social media.
Huge thanks to Matt for taking the time out to chat and answer some questions. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter, and subscribe to Extra Points to get all the best college athletics info straight to your inbox.