The NIL era has arrived. Collegiate athletes may now profit from their name, image and likeness. Many people are already taking advantage and quite frankly, it's been a glorious few hours. A fascinating combination of random products attaching themselves to random student athletes and people reacting and overreacting to what it all means.
It's going to take a while to get used to this. Things are going to go awry. Compliance offices are going to be very busy. But that's alright. Smart schools have been preparing for this. Others will have to catch up. So far nothing untoward has happened. In fact, some of the early ads have been downright wholesome. Michigan State kicker Matthew Coghlin, who made 9 of 12 field goals for the Spartans last season, apparently got paid to promote a Michigan State podcast.
Across the B1G, Ohio State offensive lineman Dawand Jones is selling candles.
In Florida, Miami Hurricanes quarterback D'Eriq King has fielded multiple endorsements, including one where he and Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton will be the face of a company that helps college athletes book appearances. Here's one take on King.
Star quarterbacks getting preferential treatment and more endorsement opportunities is nothing new, no matter how well liked the player is. It's something Johnny Manziel missed out on at Texas A&M. The NIL news probably got him thinking about how he could have maximized his earning potential during his Heisman days.
While he has one idea, it is clear that universities should also be coming up with stuff like this to help their athletes. Beefing up marketing departments seems like a no-brainer. Increasing awareness in the student athletes will in turn increase the awareness in the college. The schools that handle this better should have an immediate advantage in recruiting.
Lower-profile players will have to be more creative if they want to get paid, but it's not just about endorsements. Marshall's Will Ulmer can now get paid to preform live, something that has little to do with his standing on the football team, but which he was unable to do before NIL.
So how are the colleges handling this? Auburn looked ready with a video promoting the school and its athletes to go along with a website with all the pertinent information.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Wolverines seem to be putting some restrictions in place that could limit athletes from capitalizing off viral moments as Darren Rovell and Andy Staples pointed out.
In addition to the way the schools handle this, it will be interesting to see how coaches react to this scary new world.
Finally, the most high-profile deals yet may belong to female athletes. Fresno State basketball players Haley and Hanna Cavinder have signed with Boost Mobile and Six Star Nutrition.
If someone told you the first college athletes to profit off their own billboard in Times Square would be women's basketball players from Fresno State, you probably wouldn't have believed it, but these two each have about a quarter of a million followers on Instagram. If an athlete can build a brand, they will have a chance — no matter where they play.
It's only been a few hours and a diverse group of student athletes have had a wide variety of opportunities. Many more are to come over the days, weeks, months and beyond. And you know there are going to be missteps. There's going to be some tremendous content as athletes, brands and schools try to navigate these uncharted waters. The most important thing is that these kids now have the right to seize these opportunities should they arise.