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NIL: What the New Rules May Mean for Georgetown Student-Athletes

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How BIG EAST men and women might monetize under new rules for name, image, and likeness use

Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A few days ago, a new day dawned in the NCAA and student-athletes became permitted to be paid for use of their names, images, and likenesses (NIL). This isn’t a surprise for most fans, as several states enacted legislation that essentially forced the NCAA’s hand on suspending the almighty amateurism rules for NIL on July 1st.

Georgetown’s Athletic Director Lee Reed and Head Coach Patrick Ewing chimed in on Twitter:

Outwardly, it appeared that Georgetown merely reacted to the new news, but those truly familiar with Georgetown’ affinity for rules and bureaucracy likely assume otherwise.

Of course, President of Georgetown University, John G. DeGioia, is the current Chair for the NCAA Board of Governors. BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman is a co-chair of the committee that drafted the NCAA guidelines. In September, fans learned that Malcolm Wilson, the 6’11” rising junior center, was appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee. Wilson is also a member of a BIG EAST working group, created to “assist its member institutions as they prepare to operationalize the anticipated NIL framework.” Georgetown, and the rest of the conference, has probably been hard at work.

It looks like Senior Associate AD for External Affairs Dan O’Neil and Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations Dan Trump have been leading the charge.

More than one athlete at Georgetown has announced a position towards potential NIL partnerships.

One BIG EAST athlete has already announced a big partnership with Barstool Sports.

The question becomes whether any Georgetown Hoyas student-athlete will warrant a sponsorship and/or partnership. Many fans have said that only a few athletes on campus—e.g., two or three basketball players—will be able to secure some NIL money. That seems very shortsighted. Sponsorships will likely be available to student athletes with demonstrable large followings, e.g., as talented athletes or as marketable personalities.

In fact, BIG EAST women’s sports may be better able to immediately leverage the traditional “sponsored content” and “influencer” business model in order. ESPN cited a Temple University study showing that “athletes outside the revenue sports of football and men’s basketball could still earn about $5,000 per year with just 10,000 followers on various social media platforms” and that “[e]ngagement is critical, so the value would depend more on content and frequency of new posts than actual on-field accomplishments.” The Cavinder sisters of Fresno State basketball have been setting the pace with recent NIL signings, including special billboard announcements in Times Square.

Now, with the caveat that this is not legal advice, here are seven quick promotion ideas that we might see a Georgetown athlete participate in soon:

  1. Promotional posts for clothing, sneakers, food, and/or other services or products. This could be anything from modeling session to the now-classic “unboxing” video of clothing to a photo of an athlete eating a cheeseburger.
  2. Appearance at a store or event to, e.g., speak, take photographs, autograph items. Perhaps a car dealership wants to offer photos with a player, or a private basketball camp wants to advertise that a player is coming to teach, or that a banquet gives an honorarium for a motivational speech. This could also mean appearances and live performances at bars and club, e.g., music performances and/or DJ gigs.
  3. Virtual appearances via Cameo, Instagram Live, Twitch, video games, premium SnapChat, OnlyFans, etc. If the price is right, some fans might purchase a birthday greeting from their favorite player.
  4. Selling memorabilia, autographs, as well as branded t-shirts and apparel. For instance, Jagan Mosely has sold t-shirts post-college.
  5. Selling original works and creative items, e.g., paintings, photography, sculptures, songs, performances, novels, short stories, NFTs, etc. It’s unclear if works of art were prevented by NIL limitations, but it seems potentially cleared as an option now.
  6. Create his/her own business—e.g., party planning, technology consulting, inside sales, bitcoin mining, and whatever else college students might come up with as a startup.
  7. Appearing on a podcast and/or contributing to a blog, e.g., on a regular basis.

The question then turns to if/how Georgetown basketball fans and alumni can help. Currently, it is unclear what “boosters” may be permitted to do for student-athletes. It seems clear-cut that no rewards-based payments (e.g., score 20, get X hundred dollars) is allowed, but what level a booster may be involved in a company hiring a student-athlete is murky at best.

Unsurprisingly, Georgetown has not publicly issued any rules but a few schools have, including the University of Miami, whose athletes will likely be at the forefront of the NIL wave, at least with college football coming. The below infographic appears to be produced by Opendorse, who identifies a dozen universities as partners including Maryland and Creighton.

Opendorse

Essentially, the graphic relays that (1) boosters may indeed pay student-athletes, (2) NIL deals must be at fair market value and be for actual work performed, (3) payment may be cash, checks, gifts, travel, food, and more, (4) NIL activities cannot be used for recruiting (e.g., compensating for enrollment, and (5) NIL activities must be disclosed to the school (e.g., they recommend using the Opendorse platform, but there is an NCAA sample reporting form). It’s been reported in legal news media that Opendorse helped negotiate over 1,000 NIL deals on the first day.

One of ESPN’s articles addresses Frequently Asked Questions about NIL and says that the NCAA does not have any rules that restrict boosters from paying athletes “as long as those payments are not directly for their athletic performance or an inducement for recruiting purposes” and that some state laws may “address booster involvement in different ways, and some might need further interpretation” regarding boosters. The FAQ also notes that the NCAA rules don’t particularly limit schools from arranging NIL deals but “schools need to be careful that they don’t cross any lines into an area that could be considered paying the players or using NIL payments as a recruiting tool.”

Still, it is unclear whether ESPN’s FAQ or Miami’s infographic on booster involvement protocols is safe to follow as a baseline. The NCAA’s rules may need interpretation. In fact, this is all so new, it’s unclear what’s safe yet. The NCAA has a portal with a few documents and resources on NIL.

Of course, student-athletes should be wary of scams, phishing attempts, and pranks.

Think about how hilarious it would be to have a freshman Syracuse player promoting McNamara Port-O-Crappers! All a rival fan might need are a domain name, a few dollars, and some creativity. Not saying it’s a good idea, just fair warning for our favorite student-athletes to be wary of whom they begin discussions to promote. Scammers are out there.

The NIL rules and/or interpretations are open for discussion. What other ideas for players to promote can you think of?

Feel free to comment on the appropriateness of the rule change, but please dont conflate NIL with a situation where the school is directly paying players. And remember that there’s almost zero chance the NCAA finds a way to backtrack to traditional “amateurism,” given the recent state laws and court rulings.