What is NIL and How Does it Work for Florida College Athletes?

by Mike Walsten
The Helmet Co.
Name Image Likeness

NIL ("Name, Image, and Likeness") refers to the recent changes in NCAA regulations that allow college athletes to profit from their own name, image, and likeness. Here's how it works and the implications:

Before NIL:

Strict rules prohibited college athletes from receiving any compensation or earnings themselves using their status as an athlete.
This included things like signing autographs for money, sponsorships, social media promotions, etc.

How NIL Changes Things:

Monetization Opportunities: Athletes can now earn income through:

- Endorsement deals with brands
- Starting their own businesses
- Selling merchandise
- Paid appearances
- Social media influencer campaigns

State Laws & Individual Universities: While the NCAA has established basic guidelines, states and individual universities have their own variations of NIL rules. Athletes need to be familiar with what's allowed at their school and in their state.

Benefits of NIL

Financial Empowerment: Provides an income opportunity athletes didn't have before, especially those in popular sports or with large followings.
Fairness: Many felt the old system exploited athletes as universities and the NCAA made substantial profits off their names.
Builds Personal Brand: Helps athletes learn about business and marketing as they develop a brand beyond just their in-game performance.

Concerns and Considerations

Focus on Academics: Some worry athletes might overprioritize NIL deals to the detriment of studies.
Amateurism vs. Professionalism: Raises questions about the line between college athletics and the pros.
Exploitation: Concerns exist about athletes, especially younger ones, making poor financial decisions or being taken advantage of.
Disparity: NIL benefits might increase the gap between athletes at large, well-funded schools and those at smaller programs with less market pull.

Examples of College Athletes Using NIL

High-Profile Stars

Bryce Young (Alabama QB): Endorsement deals with companies like Dr. Pepper, BMW, and Cash App while still in college.
Paige Bueckers (UConn Women's Basketball): Partnerships with Gatorade and StockX, plus her own social media following.
Caleb Williams (USC QB): Works with brands like Hawkins Way Capital, Beats by Dre, and even has his own men's grooming line.

Beyond the Big Names

Haley Cavinder (Miami Women's Basketball): One of the popular twins who leveraged TikTok and Instagram to land deals with Boost Mobile and WWE.
Sedona Prince (Oregon Women's Basketball): Used her platform to advocate for equality and secured deals related to social change.
Shedeur Sanders (Colorado QB): Son of NFL legend, building his own brand with companies recognizing his name and talent.

Local/Niche Opportunities

Long Snapper (Smaller School): Creates instructional videos or provides paid individual coaching lessons.
Golfer (Mid-size University): Partners with a local golf equipment store or course for promotions.
Women's Lacrosse Player: Secures a deal with a popular sports apparel brand in her region.

Creative Ventures

Athlete-Owned Businesses: Some athletes launch their own clothing lines, snack food brands, or training camps.
Paid Appearances: Athletes can get paid for attending events, signing autographs, or speaking at youth sports functions.
"Fan Experience" Packages: Offering personalized video messages, private lessons, or meet-and-greets.


NIL Rules for Florida

In Feb., 2023 Florida passed a bi-partisan bill allowing student-athletes to pursue business opportunities related to their name and images. The most important change in this amendment is the requirement of schools to provide at least two workshops for financial literacy, life skills, and entrepreneurship. Workshops of these vital key education points will help student-athletes make informed decisions regarding managing their image, brand, and finances.


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Mike Walsten is the owner and founder of The Helmet Co. He is also the author of Separated at the Border: A Novel (Myakka Press, 2019), and was profiled in People Magazine June 4, 1990.