NIL photo

Lily Wahinekapu follows her free throw against Southern Utah on Nov. 9 in Titan Gym. (Kassandra Vasquez / Daily Titan)

National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes across the nation have been fighting for years for their rights as participants in college sports. That fight became easier on July 1, 2021 when the NCAA passed an interim law that allows collegiate athletes to benefit monetarily from their name, image and likeness, otherwise known as NIL.

History

In the ‘50s Walter Byers, the NCAA’s first executive director, created the term “student-athletes” to help with legal issues that the NCAA was facing — including one where Billie Dennison, the widow of former Fort Lewis A&M player, sued for workmen’s compensation after her husband, Ray Dennison died from a head injury he sustained while playing football.

Legal issues swayed Byers and the NCAA to start using the term “student-athletes” to get away from any responsibilities that schools may face when it comes to collegiate athletes seeking compensation.

Although some may argue that NCAA athletes are paid through the scholarships they receive to attend the schools they play for; those scholarships do not always completely cover the expenses at their schools. Some athletes do not receive any scholarships and have to find a way to cover the expenses themselves.

Donald De La Haye, a YouTube content creator and former NCAA athlete for the University of Central Florida showcased the extent of the NCAA’s strict rules in 2017 when collegiate athletes could not profit from their name, image and likeness.

De La Haye had the choice to either continue profiting off his YouTube channel that highlighted his time as a student and an athlete, or lose his scholarship. De La Haye decided to pursue his career on YouTube, but said that he felt betrayed that the NCAA made him decide between the two.

Cases like De La Haye’s truly made people think about whether or not student athletes should be able to profit off of NIL, especially considering the amount of money these athletes bring into schools.

What is NIL?

According to Derric West, CSUF assistant athletic director of compliance, students previously were not allowed to profit off of their own name, image or likeness.

Student athletes generated revenue for their respective programs, but they did not make any money from that contribution, West said.

“A general student that’s here on campus was able to go out and use their talents to profit,” West said. “A lot of people know certain universities based off their sports programs and these student athletes are the face of those sports programs and they were not able to capitalize on their popularity.”

West said that NCAA athletes can now make money from their own platform. The NCAA approved the ability for students to use NIL for “compensation for third-party endorsements related to athletics” and “compensation for other student-athlete opportunities, such as social media, new businesses, and personal appearances.”

It added that all NIL activities are to happen without involvement from the school or conference.

While the NCAA approved and implemented a general NIL ruling for college student athletes, each state and subsequent school was given the task of defining specific details regarding guidelines and reporting requirements.

What is CSUF doing?

Cal State Fullerton released a guide detailing how the university will move forward with NIL.

The Titan Athletics’ NIL policy covers participation rules for the university and student-athletes, institutional or third-party involvement, disclosure rules, rules regarding CSUF intellectual property, provisional service providers, potential financial implications and exceptions.

Name, image and likeness does not equate to pay for play. NCAA athlete compensation is not conditioned based on athletic performance or attendance at CSUF and collegiate athletes are not permitted to engage in NIL activity while participating in official team activities.

Participating in NIL activities that conflict with academic obligations are discouraged through the university’s policy and NCAA athletes are prohibited from entering into a contract that conflicts with a provision of their university contract.

Participation in NIL activities that violate NCAA rules is also strictly prohibited.

CSUF does not have a hand in developing NIL deals for the NCAA athletes. The university’s policy states, “CSUF is not permitted to be involved in the development, operation, or promotion of NIL activities; this includes, but is not limited to, coaches, staff, and independent contractors of CSUF.”

However, CSUF booster activity is allowed “when services and compensation are consistent with the services and compensation provided to other clients.”

In July, the Big West conference partnered with Collegiate Licensing Company to implement its Compass program for NIL solutions for student-athletes.

Eleven schools, including CSUF, are registered for the program, which provides NIL activity registration and educational resources. Collegiate athletes are required to disclose their NIL activities to Compass, but the university and its employees may not aid in legal, financial or business advice for said activities.

As Compass and the university operate on a self-disclose basis, it is worth noting that the event of collegiate athletes engaging in NIL activities without reporting these activities is a distinct possibility.

However, with policy in place, there are repercussions for breaking the rules in place akin to NCAA rule violations.

For international NCAA athletes, failure to contact International Student Services prior to signing an NIL agreement could jeopardize their student visa status.

NCAA athletes are also unable to use CSUF logos, marks and photos in any NIL activity. Citing the unknown space of NIL, the university has fallen back on its intellectual property legal protections regarding its own branding use.

CSUF facilities are permitted to be used for NIL use, so long as NCAA athletes do not use their status as a collegiate athlete to gain access. NIL participants must go through the proper campus processes and procedures to rent facility use, sometimes by contracts and payment.

As NCAA athletes enter a more profound legal space with the new NIL rules, CSUF has included policy to cover their rights. Collegiate athletes are permitted to obtain legal representation outside of athletic agents and legal representation in order to assist contract and legal matters.

This representation must be California State licensed, and they must register with the CSUF Athletics Compliance office. Students must be responsible for paying the representation’s fees.

CSUF employees or independent contractors are prohibited from providing professional services, as well as helping collegiate athletes secure these services or pay for them.

Using professional service providers to market athletic ability or reputation to advance a professional athletic career can jeopardize NCAA eligibility. Titans Athletics specified that they “recommend a limited scope of representation being very clearly defined in any agreements you sign with a professional service provider.”

The NIL rules get increasingly complex regarding financial implications. Collegiate athletes who use NIL are subject to federal, state and local tax and need-based financial aid can change based on NIL earnings.

CSUF recommends that athletes who participate in NIL visit the Financial Aid Office prior to entering any NIL agreements or partaking in NIL activities to avoid aid setbacks.

Ultimately, CSUF may change this policy in compliance with state, federal and NCAA laws and rules. As the NIL is still in its infancy, this is hardly shocking and most likely indicative that as the NIL picture changes across the national landscape, so too will CSUF’s policy.

How does it impact the athletes?

The effects of NIL have varied from student to student. Women’s basketball player and graduate student Nancy Panagiotopoulou Andritsopoulou said she has not gained monetary compensation.

Panagiotopoulou said she believes all she has gained is exposure from working with brands like Go Puff, a delivery app.

“Later on, in the future, if I want to start something on my own, I already have a following that I managed to create in my early college career,” she said.

While Panagiotopoulou is not receiving income from the brands she endorses, she does get sent free merchandise for her to try out.

This has also been the case for sophomore baseball player Brendan Bobo, who has an endorsement deal with Barstool Sports, a sports and media outlet.

“They want you to get your name out there and that’s why they post about you, really the only thing I got out of it was a few pieces of clothing and that’s it,” Bobo said.

Bobo also said that following the Barstool Sports endorsement, he was contacted by other companies for endorsement deals but hasn’t had the opportunity to respond.

He said he does hope to eventually work with brands that align with his interests.

“I like to work out so just working with a workout company or a supplement company, that's obviously approved by the NCAA, would honestly be a big goal of mine,” Bobo said.

Tray Maddox Jr., senior men’s basketball player, is among the students who are making an income through NIL endorsements.

“I think that's the dopest thing, to wear other brands and stuff like that and get paid for it,” Maddox said.

One of the biggest endorsements Maddox currently has is with Boosted Biz, a business that creates websites and products for their clients. Boosted Biz and Maddox have partnered to create merchandise with Maddox’s initials.

Boosted Biz designs and produces the clothing, while Maddox promotes the line and business on Instagram. In turn, Maddox receives about 25% of the profit.

Outside of monetary gains, Maddox said that he has gained communication skills that will be significant for him later in life.

“Before the whole NIL thing, I wasn’t very good at communicating with business owners because I didn't really know what to say or how to answer their questions,” Maddox said. “But,since the NIL has been out and the more I’ve communicated with a lot of different business owners and a lot of different higher up people, I’ve gotten a lot better over time.”

What does the future look like?

According to the NCAA press release, the policy allows individuals to engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.

However, this NCAA policy is not designed to be a long-term solution. According to the NCAA press release, the policy is temporary and will remain in place until federal legislation or new NCAA rules are adopted.

Until then, each state will have and enforce its own NIL laws. This NIL system, in which each state has different rules, will likely cause problems as recruiting top collegiate athletes can prove to be more difficult for colleges and universities in states that have strict NIL laws compared to states with more progressive NIL laws.

To combat the competitive imbalance that will be created by this NIL state law system, the NCAA has asked the federal government to create a national NIL standard.

According to ESPN, the NCAA has asked Congress for help in creating a federal NIL law.

Currently, there are 28 states with NIL laws already in effect, according to ESPN. Some states have laws that will go into effect in 2023, others in 2025. There are also states that do not currently have a bill passed, but are actively moving through the legislative process.

At this time, the future of NIL is not entirely clear, but West said he believes the rules will evolve over time.

“It's hard to say what those rules would be now,” West said. “But, I do believe it's going to eventually evolve over time and it's here to stay.”

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