NIL soccer photo

The NCAA has adopted this interim policy while Congress continues to debate the issue of NIL on a national scale.

It’s a new era in college athletics. Following the latest name, image and likeness (NIL) interim policy passed by the NCAA, the days of amateurism are now a thing of the past. 

No longer will student-athletes have to wait until the professional leagues to make a profit. Entrepreneurship, endorsement deals and other business opportunities have been made available for those looking to expand their personal brands.

The interim policy has just two measures that all institutions must follow. Athletes must not receive compensation for their play, nor can universities use NIL deals as  part of their recruiting strategy. Shannon Strahl, Gonzaga University’s senior associate director of compliance, stated that this was to help keep a common ground among all NCAA athletic programs.

“Otherwise, institutions in states where state NIL laws are not in effect have the discretion to set policies that work best for them,” Strahl said via email.

Outside of those parameters, schools across the country were left to implement their own NIL regulations. 

So, what exactly does this mean for GU athletic programs?

As of July 1, all student-athletes are permitted to partake in NIL activities with limited interference from the university. This allows for a player to have their name used by corporations, businesses or other parties outside of GU for promotional purposes. 

Appearing in TV advertisements or receiving discounts on products are both examples of NIL activities. Owning and promoting a business is also permitted. 

In conjunction with the NCAA’s overarching policy, GU will prohibit student-athletes from accepting any recruiting benefits or compensation for their athletic performance. Other activities including the promotion of banned NCAA substances, sports gambling and anything else  that goes against the university’s Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic values are also not allowed.

Student-athletes may now also hire an agent to help market their personal brand while remaining in school. This does not include exploiting a player’s athletic ability for profit or assisting them in securing an opportunity in a professional league. In the past, such an act would warrant forfeiting NCAA eligibility, causing many athletes to conduct under-the-table deals with outside representation. 

Similarly, school boosters can engage in NIL activities as long as they follow the same regulations for agents. GU has defined a booster as an outside party who has promoted the university’s athletics before, such as making donations to the department or assisting in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes and their families. As a private college, GU receives a majority of its funds through generous donors, including season ticket holders that attend every home game. 

Student-athletes must be careful when mentioning their association with GU during NIL endeavors. Certain logos and trademarks are not to be used for promotional purposes by players unless authorized by the school beforehand. Referencing any institutional affiliation during a commercial or any other form of media is allowed, however. 

“Gonzaga student-athletes may reference that they attend Gonzaga,” GU’s Associate Director of Compliance Rian Oliver said via email. “They may not use any additional logos, trademarks or references to the institution.”

On the flip side, GU will provide documents that would allow the school, West Coast Conference and NCAA limited usage of an individual’s NIL for promotional purposes. This includes TV and internet broadcasts of games and mandatory team activities like practice. If for some reason a student-athlete does not release their NIL rights to the university, they would not be allowed to compete in the ensuing game or match.

Whatever the business or promotion an athlete is partaking in to receive financial compensation, GU has stated the reward must not exceed the fair market value for that activity. A common practice in business, this term is used to define the average or expected rate for completing a job, thus preventing employers from overpaying their employees. Of course, market value varies depending on the line of work.

To help determine the worth of any NIL activity, as well as provide other resources to student-athletes, GU has partnered with INFLCR. Specializing in athlete branding, INFLCR is used by over 1,000 institutions across the country and has formulated metrics to gauge the fair market value of a promotion or advertisement done through social media. 

The company will also aid GU’s Next Level program designed to educate athlete’s about personal branding, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

In addition to this, the university will allow for the use of campus facilities for NIL activities. Bulldog athletes would have to request and pay the going rate for that specific venue’s space. This is not to be confused with a different clause that states no member of GU’s staff and faculty may facilitate or otherwise help with NIL endeavors. Instead, a venue request would be treated as any other inquiry the university might receive.

“Our facilities staff regularly receives requests for facility rentals or reservations from outside entities,” Oliver said. “A student-athlete NIL request would be vetted in the same manner.”

The new policies are certainly a lot to digest, as administrators and athletic directors continue to educate themselves more on the concept of NIL. There will most likely be adjustments and tweaks along the way, but the overall goal of empowering student-athletes will remain consistent. 

“We want to empower student-athletes with resources to prepare them for the NIL landscape,” Strahl said. “Not only so they can better capitalize on opportunities but also to help protect themselves from potential pitfalls.”

Cole Forsman is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @CGForsman

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