This July marked the one-year anniversary that legislation passed allowing student-athletes to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness (NIL). Over the last year, thousands of players throughout the country have secured NIL deals, many of which are lucrative. Illinois, where many schools have strong athletic departments, has experienced the same. For example, at the University of Illinois, approximately 150 athletes have engaged in over 400 NIL deals since July 2021. These sponsorships have ranged over every sport and 35% of them have been with females. The NIL landscape in Illinois has undergone many changes since last July, and it is important for athletes to keep up with it in order to take full advantage of this opportunity.
What is changing in Illinois?
One major change that will affect athletes this year is the recent Illinois amendments to the Student-Athlete Endorsement Rights Act. These amendments will lift select major restrictions that barred students from reaching their full potential when entering NIL deals. The following are some of the major changes to be aware of:
- University Facilitation – Universities can now provide advice to athletes who may have questions on potential deals like what agreements they should/should not enter into and who they should reach out to. Additionally, schools can also facilitate NIL deals between people, businesses, and student-
- Education Opportunities – Previously, universities were barred from providing education related to NIL deals. Now, they are allowed to incorporate time management, financial literacy, and brand management into their programs.
- Cross-Institutional Agreements – Prior to the amendments, the life of a contract that a student entered into with a third party was only for their time at that institution, i.e., the contract was university specific. Now, students can transfer institutions through the transfer portal and keep their contracts. Contracts are for the life that a student is at any institution, not just the institution where they entered into the contract.
Why are these changes important?
While the initial legislation gave college players the green light to benefit from their NIL, it did not give them the resources or the opportunities to do so. Unlike professional athletes, who have agents that facilitate big money opportunities for them, most student-athletes don’t have the same agency relationship since they don’t attract large money-making deals.
Now, schools can involve themselves to create more opportunities for their students, much like an agent would do. For example, if a local burger shop wants to work with an athlete, it can now call the school’s athletic department and ask: “We want a basketball player to come to an event we are hosting, who should we use?” Businesses and people in the community often don’t know who the current players are or how to contact them. The athletic department can now act as an intermediary and facilitate setting up an athlete with the business.
This change is important because it provides the ability to create many more NIL deals. Schools that have snatched the headlines are the ones that have entered into the most deals, and this is primarily done by going through the athletic department.
The NIL space for students is ever-evolving. It initially required a large shift in thinking to allow athletes to be compensated at all, and now requires states to think about how they can take a proactive and progressive approach to embrace this shift. The recent amendments in Illinois are doing just that, and are part of a larger national legislative trend. Allowing schools to get involved provides a better outcome for the student-athletes and the community, and we will likely see a large uptick in the number of deals. Looking to the second year, coaches, schools, and students in Illinois are excited to see what’s next and what will happen with the ever-evolving NIL landscape.