Less than a year after the NCAA agreed to let student athletes profit off their name, image and likeness—by endorsing products, promoting brands on social media, charging for autographs, etc.—the benefits and pitfalls of the change are becoming obvious.
Across the country, student athletes have been able to sign with agents or school-endorsed agencies to earn money from their talents in ways that, previously, only their universities, conferences and the NCAA were able to do. We think that is generally a positive.
But, as expected, there are concerns as well—big ones.
Consider that The Athletic, a sports news website, has reported that a top recruit in the class of 2023 has signed an agreement with a school’s NIL collective that will be worth $8 million. The Athletic didn’t name the recruit or the school.
Or that an organization of University of Texas supporters has raised a $10 million fund to provide contracts to Longhorn players. In fact, the group already has launched a program called The Pancake Factory that will offer $50,000 contracts to members of the Texas offensive line to endorse charitable efforts.
Keep in mind that NCAA rules still prohibit schools—or outside companies or organizations—from paying students to attend a specific university or play a sport. Student athletes can be paid only for their work endorsing products or brands or for allowing their name or image to be used for endorsements.
And it’s not clear yet how the Indianapolis-based NCAA will react to some of these moves, which seem like clear violations of the spirit of NIL rules.
But some organizations—including one organized by Cook Group President Pete Yonkman—are taking a different tack.
Hoosiers for Good is raising money with the goal of paying Indiana University athletes to represent charitable organizations. But there’s no plan to offer blanket contracts to athletes in key positions on IU teams.
Instead, Hoosiers for Good wants to work with student athletes individually to identify their passions and then match them with causes or organizations they can authentically represent. And Yonkman seems at least as interested in what the arrangements could do for the organizations as he does with what they mean for student athletes or IU.
On the latest episode of the IBJ Podcast, Yonkman said not-for-profits do great work “without the limelight. They do it without the spotlight being shined on them. And they oftentimes are doing it on very, very small budgets. And what we’ve seen is that, when you add a little spotlight and you add some resources, folks can achieve even bigger things.”
He drew a distinction between the organizations and NIL deals that are being offered elsewhere. That’s just not “the Indiana way,” he said.
“A lot of schools are running around doing things that we would just not want to be anywhere near,” he said. “They’re on their face, kind of violating the rules.”
We don’t disagree. And we’re eager to see if Hoosiers for Good can set a different kind of example, one that helps students gain a better appreciation for community involvement and helps not-for-profits thrive.•
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