What is NIL and how will it affect college athletics, even locally?

Today starts a new era in college athletics.

Only time will tell if it’s a benefit or a detriment to the games and teams and universities so many people love.

NIL. Remember those three letters.

And don’t confuse them with NLI (national letter of intent).

Nope. NIL stands for Name, Image and Likeness.

If you have been paying attention to the national sports talk shows or reading anything about college athletics over the past few weeks, NIL has been one of the hot topic buttons.

Starting today, every collegiate student-athlete across the country in every sport has the ability to profit from their name, image and likeness.

Hello, G-Men and Lady Tigers. Shout out to you, Bulldogs and Lady Techsters. Of course, that roar you might have heard came from Tigers in Baton Rouge, Longhorns in Austin, and Bruins at UCLA, where the up$ide might be immense, but opportunity is knocking for student-athletes at Grambling and Louisiana Tech, too.

The heated debate over whether student-athletes should receive compensation in addition to scholarships, apparel, meal plans, medical care, and other benefits that they already receive from being a part of a college athletic team rages on.

Only, now it will rage on with that starting quarterback or third string catcher having the opportunity to legally profit from their name, image or likeness without it affecting their amateur status.

There are still rules in place, although even the NCAA took until 4 p.m. Wednesday to finally adopt an interim policy that suspended its own NIL rules that in the past prohibited all of this.

States are passing legislation to address it. Schools are setting their own criteria. Even Congress has gotten involved.

It’s a bit of a free-for-all across the country as everyone is trying to figure it out while no one really knows what it will ultimately mean.

What is known is that starting today, student-athletes have a new opportunity (although policies will be in place that are supposed to prohibit anything outside of “fair, market value.”).

In the NCAA’s memo to universities across the country Wednesday afternoon, the last paragraph stated: While opening name, image and likeness opportunities to student-athletes, the policy in all three divisions preserves the commitment to avoid pay-for-play and improper inducements tied to choosing to attend a particular school. Those rules remain in effect.

Compliance departments across the country just took a deep breath (and an extra Tylenol).

Can you imagine thousands of student-athletes walking into compliance offices across the country with a variety of offers today? That may be a bit of an overreach, but the bandwidth that compliance officers, and communication specialists, and academic counselors, and even coaches are going to spend on this is immeasurable.

And the ultimate impact on college athletics is … well priceless.


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