Following a June 2021 U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA, the association enacted a series of ad-hoc rules that now allow student-athletes to capitalize on their own name, image, and likeness (NIL). While the new policies are a win for college players, they do not address the longstanding need to improve financial literacy among college and professional athletes, who have been shown to have less economic expertise than their peers. A 2021 Kansas State University study found that only 9 percent of professional athletes had ever met with a financial advisor, and nearly 65 percent had received no financial education in high school or college.
Many experts in the college sports industry agree that colleges should be responsible for helping their student-athletes navigate the complexities of NIL contracts and money management to prevent organizations from taking advantage of them. To address this issue, some colleges and universities have developed strategies to help their players benefit from these new earning opportunities while also learning valuable life skills.
Some institutions are partnering with companies to provide sponsorship and endorsement deals to players. Brigham Young University signed a contract in September 2021 with SmartyStreets, an address verification site that provides more than 300 women student-athletes with a NIL package worth $6,000 per year.
In 2020, in anticipation of potential NIL rule changes, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) partnered with Opendorse, an athlete endorsement technology and marketing firm, and launched an app that provides players with lessons on financial literacy, networking, and other life skills. In June 2021, the university introduced the #NILbraska initiative for its 650 student-athletes. UNL players are matched with peer mentors from the UNL law and business schools to help them navigate NIL contracts and manage their finances. UNL has also committed to making the program’s resources available to student-athletes after they leave school.
“It’s really a win-win between [the] campus and athletics because it’s allowing the students in those schools to be able to work in real-life business scenarios, and it gives our student-athletes the support they need to help monetize their [NIL],” Garrett Klassy, UNL senior deputy athletic director, recently told Sports Illustrated.
Some institutions are partnering with companies to provide sponsorship and endorsement deals to players. Brigham Young University signed a contract in September 2021 with SmartyStreets, an address verification site that provides more than 300 women student-athletes with a NIL package worth $6,000 per year. The players are required to make social media posts throughout the year, appear in marketing materials, and attend company events. The arrangement is especially useful because women athletes in NCAA Division I sports receive only 32.6 percent of total NIL compensation, according to Opendorse.
Other schools have created new positions within their athletic departments to guide students through the NIL process. Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, in March 2021, Duquesne University hired a personal brand coach for its men’s basketball program. The coach meets with players individually and as a group to guide them on establishing their personal brands, entrepreneurship, and self-promotion.
These lessons help the athletes prepare for life after college by teaching them the value of professional networking and other skills important for the job market, Dave Harper, Duquesne vice president of athletics, stated in a news release. He also noted that it is the university’s responsibility, as an educational institution, to support its players in these endeavors.
“We are educators,” Harper said, “and teaching our students to be successful personal brand builders is complementary to the outstanding education they will receive at Duquesne.”●
Erik Cliburn is a senior staff writer for INSIGHT Into Diversity.
This article was published in our March 2022 issue.