MISSOULA — On July 1, NCAA athletes were able to begin profiting off of their name, image and likeness. And now going forward, athletic institutions are tasked with working with these new policies including at the University of Montana.
For UM Director of Athletics Kent Haslam, the biggest aspect to all of this is educating student-athletes on what can and can't be done.
"For us, it’s going to be education, it’s going to be monitoring, it’s going to be helping teach our student-athletes this is what they can do," Haslam said. "Making sure they disclose what they’re doing so that we can keep track and make sure we’re compliant with NCAA rules."
UM released its NIL policy on the first day student-athletes were allowed to begin this process. To see the entire policy and guidelines, click here.
The university cannot help facilitate business relationships with student-athletes, but that education process will include ways to help the athletes understand the tools at their disposal now, including life skills, financial literacy, brand management and more.
Haslam said the Big Sky Conference is in the process of figuring out a simple way to make sure student-athletes are reporting their new deals. That way the university is aware of them and can also make sure athletes are following the guidelines to ensure they don't lose eligibility. Right now, student-athletes fill out forms when they strike a deal, but the conference hopes to come up with a more efficient digital approach.
Haslam noted the biggest thing to monitor as this moves forward is making sure student-athletes are involving themselves in legit businesses. Meaning, they can't receive pay-to-play benefits from boosters, or money that is masked as coming from a business when in reality is just being given to the student to try and sway them in recruiting.
That, he said, is his biggest concern regarding the change.
"A booster can’t simply just say, 'Here’s $500 because we think you’re a great student-athlete,'" Haslam said. "It needs to be something that is promoting a business. You’re endorsing a business, you’re doing something through social media, it would be really no different than any other relationship you see an athlete with some kind of a business and entering into an endorsement partnership. So they need to be legitimate, fair-market value relationships."
A big reason UM had to come up with its own set of policies is because there is no blanket policy over name, image and likeness profiting. SB 248, a bill that was passed by the Montana legislature, which will affect the whole state, won't go into effect until June 1, 2023.
Endorsement deals, sponsorships, social media influencing and business building is all OK by policy standard.
However, student-athletes can't use the university marks, or logos, if promoting a business or camp or clinic or anything else because the university still retains the intellectual property rights to the marks and logos. For instance, if a student-athlete were to run a camp or clinic in their hometown, they could not use the Griz logo on any promo for it since the athlete does not own the rights to the marks.
Haslam noted that another concern from this chance is general sponsors for the athletic department could opt to shift funds to specific athletes with money that affects the entire department.
"(For example), a business that was spending $50,000 to be a general sponsor of the athletic department now says, 'We're going to give you $25,000 and we're going to give five student-athletes $5,000 each," Haslam explained. "That's great for the student-athletes and I'm excited for them, but then it does impact our ability to generate revenue that supports the entire department."
Haslam added that the policy UM has made is fluid and things could change as time moves forward.
"It’s a work in progress, it could change. We’re still trying to figure out all of those parameters we want in place but we did want to make sure we had some guidelines for our student-athletes to operate," Haslam said. "Whether it came to the use of the marks, whether it came to what companies we feel comfortable allowing our student-athletes to promote. All of those type of things we wanted to have in place so our student-athletes had some guidance."
Even though profiting off of NIL is brand new, student-athletes across the country have taken advantage of their new opportunities. Former Montana Grizzly receiver Samori Toure, who is now playing football at Nebraska, has tweeted a few endorsement deals he's earned, as has current UM receiver Samuel Akem.
There's a lot to sort out with NIL after just starting at the beginning of the month, but overall, Haslam sees the change as a positive one for college athletics across the board.
"I think those are great opportunities for them and I think it’s been a long time coming to be honest," Haslam said. "I think college athletics will be just fine. We’ll get through this, it will look a little bit different. If there’s opportunities, just like any other student on this campus, to generate some revenue and make some money off of your name, image or likeness, I think that’s totally appropriate."