North Texas Daily

COLUMN: NIL ushers in a new and improved era for college athletes

COLUMN: NIL ushers in a new and improved era for college athletes

COLUMN: NIL ushers in a new and improved era for college athletes
July 09
13:00 2021

With college athletes across the country now able to utilize name, image and likeness rights as of July 1, they are rightfully able to see greater fruits from their own labors.

Although some have argued to the contrary, college athletes being able to market themselves is only a positive. The money college athletes generate for their respective universities is huge and it was never fair to not share such revenue with the athletes.

Universities have always been able to market themselves from athletes’ successes, whether directly or indirectly, but the player could not market themselves. This created an extreme power imbalance which has been partially corrected by NIL legislation finally passing. Bringing a university to the national stage through athletics should provide great opportunities for athletes themselves and with NIL, some of those are now possible.

The new rules come far too late for many big-name college athletes of the past to benefit, such as the former University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush. In 2006, Bush had to forfeit his Heisman trophy following a scandal that revealed Bush had received lavish gifts and money from agent Lloyd Lake, violating NCAA rules. While today’s rules would not permit what Bush received, he could legally have made money from his NIL and not needed the prohibited payments.

Bush has been outspoken previously about the NCAA reinstating himself and others who had been punished by payment restrictions. The former Heisman Trophy winner may have an even more valid point with NIL now approved. Athletes of the past who have been punished for monetary issues should be reinstated and have lost titles and records given back. After all, many may not have needed the cash if they were able to utilize their NIL. One positive of NIL approval is these types of issues may not occur nearly as much now.

NIL also gives schools a better chance to retain athletes after they are eligible for professional sports. The incentive to get paid in college instead of waiting for professional leagues can be a key point in keeping athletes around for another year. Coaches and athletic directors will surely use NIL opportunities in order to keep their stars in school. 

Extra incentive to stay can benefit the athlete as well. Athletes can, at times, jump to professional sports too early, hampering their development and ruining careers. If an athlete knows they can make some money while in college – though likely less than they would earn professionally – it could provide them with a sense of safety and motivation to stay in school. This has already proven true for University of Michigan basketball player Hunter Dickinson, who said NIL played a role in him returning for his sophomore year.

A problem many have pointed out with NIL is the disparity between endorsements for big-name schools and their smaller counterparts. In theory, athletes from more profitable and better teams would be able to make more money than lower-level college athletes. However, athletes at the less prestigious schools are being encouraged and trained to get the most out of profiting from their NIL. Some North Texas athletes have joined Barstool Sports and become “Barstool Athletes” while another has created his own clothing brand. The opportunities may not be as plentiful for Conference USA athletes compared to those in the Big 12, but the chance to take advantage is still present.

College athletics are clearly changing with NIL rights and an NCAA Supreme Court loss coming in quick succession. While some see this as a positive, others see it as the “end of college sports.” The individuals who see the latter are simply incorrect. NIL in particular rights a longstanding wrong in college sports. College athletes are students, too, and thus should be able to profit from their own endeavors like others are able to.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

About Author

Reed Smith

Reed Smith

Senior Sports Writer.

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