The concept of “name, image, and likeness” continues to play a role in college athletics as schools and lawmakers refine the practice amid calls for uniform regulations and more detailed standards.
The practice, which allows student-athletes to profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL) and further explore passions and aspirations outside of athletics, became legal in July 2021 and has become a controversial topic ever since.
“When you restrict wages and benefits for 100 years, there is going to be fallout, but dealing with fallout today and allowing athletes to have these rights and earn their fair share is just part of this long process,” NIL consultant Jordan Rogers told D Magazine.
Several DFW-based companies and institutions have been heavily involved in NIL, including Keurig, Dr. Pepper, Mizzen + Main, AT&T, MAGZ Sports (an agency dedicated to NIL), and Panini America, which recently signed a trading card deal with five-star University of Texas freshman quarterback Arch Manning and also has a contract with his teammate Quinn Ewers.
Panini became Manning’s first NIL deal in July, agreeing to produce and sell trading cards autographed by the third-generation quarterback. The deal included making and selling a singular, one-of-a-kind card that sold at auction for a record $102,500 in July.
The money was donated to St. David’s Healthcare and St. David’s Foundation in Austin as part of the deal. The bidder also got to have a meet-and-greet with Manning.
“Getting my first Panini trading card is something I couldn’t have imagined growing up,” a statement from Manning read. “Working with Panini to have my first trading card benefit the larger community is special. Helping children live healthy and fulfilling lives is something that has always been important to my family.”
Charitable causes have become a part of NIL as many universities implement collectives to help facilitate NIL deals between student-athletes, local businesses, and the local community.
“When we do NIL activations with them, we’re looking to give them opportunities to build their brand, to help build the SMU brand, and then to help build the brand of the local partner that we’ve got,” Chris Shoemann, chairman of the Boulevard Collective at SMU, told The Dallas Express. “… We try to get an entity to partner with what’s based in the community that these guys are living, playing, and studying in, and we try to make it a win-win-win…”
According to its website, the Boulevard aims to “re-focus the NIL conversation away from its financial implications” and “focus our programming on community engagement and life-skill development led by real-world sports industry and professional experts.”
The Boulevard is one of two collectives at SMU. It serves 159 student-athletes across the Mustangs’ football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball programs. It has worked with the YMCA of Dallas, the North Texas Food Bank, and United to Learn.
Having multiple collectives for student-athletes has also become a common practice. While the Pony Express was established first, and one may think multiple collectives could step on each other’s toes, Shoemann said they do not view each other as competitors.
“We don’t believe we’re in competition with Pony Express,” Shoemann said. “I think it’s healthy. The level of communication that I’ve got with my counterparts there is healthy and respectful, and there’s no issue there where we’re pitting one against the other or anything along those lines.”
Another crucial aspect of NIL is ensuring that the parties involved understand the process and the parameters. Collectives have provided resources for such purposes, and universities are starting to provide even more help in the classroom.
TCU has been at the forefront of the movement, becoming the first “Power 5” school to offer NIL classes through the Neeley Business School, including brand management, media magnification, social media engagement, value propositions, business formation, and more.
“The courses set up students for success now in understanding how to leverage their brand, and for the next 50 years after their playing career,” TCU president Daniel Pullin told D Magazine.
The NCAA’s NIL subcommittee recently met to discuss possible guideline changes. All of the proposals have yet to be passed, but they would certainly change the landscape again, particularly when it comes to helping student-athletes.
According to ESPN, most potential changes involve increased university involvement, including assisting with NIL development, tax preparation, contract review, increased access to equipment, and talking to sponsors to “secure specific opportunities.”