Three ways that name, image and likeness rights could be applied for college athletes
The debate still has to play out, but there are some interesting options ahead for athletes to get paid
For the first time, college athletes seemed destined to be paid spokespersons. They may be able to endorse a car dealership, hawk yogurt on TV or even teach their unique athletic skills to those willing to pay. The name, image and likeness discussion is that far down the road.
The NCAA may have less than a year to change its archaic amateurism rules with the courts and federal government closing in. Increasingly, officials nationwide are warming to the idea of athletes fully enjoying the college experience.
That essentially means capitalizing on their ability -- some say, "right" -- to earn money for their talents while on scholarship. It seems fair. It also seems like destiny with the walls closing in on the NCAA this week of its annual convention in Anaheim, California.
The devil is in the details. Name, image and likeness is the No. 1 topic this week as a general conversation must be narrowed to specifics. How quickly will this sea change occur? How far is the NCAA willing to go in allowing its athletes to market themselves?
Over the past few months, CBS Sports has gathered three scenarios detailing how athletes could earn money for their name, image and likeness in addition to the currently allowed benefits for room, board, books, tuition, fees and cost of attendance.
Several companies and individuals are already preparing to partner with players once the rules are changed.
1. Student Player is essentially a crowd-funding site aimed, it says, "… at helping college athletes navigate endorsements." It is led by venture capitalist Zachary Segal, a Brown University whose closest connection to sports in college was playing Ultimate Frisbee. That's no disrespect. Segal's company already has more than $103,000 banked and ready to distribute to athletes.
The Los Angeles-based site already has a formula that will distribute funds by position. A starting quarterback would get 21 percent of the "team strength allocation." That percentage declines all the way down to 2 percent each for right guards, strong safeties and long snappers.
Segal's company would make money by requiring participating players to make short videos endorsing studentplayer.com. Those videos would then be sponsored.
"We're sure our system will make it through the gauntlet," Segal said. "It doesn't require the school to pay their athletes. It wouldn't require an athlete to pick a school."
Segal is invested in Toco Warranty, an auto repair insurance company. In turn, Toco has basically provided seed money. It has made a $10,000 donation to 10 FBS programs for their starting quarterback position. That list includes Clemson and Oklahoma. The money is being held in escrow until NCAA rules are changed.
"What do you think?" Segal asked CBS Sports about where those rules are going to fall.
That's where we are -- a highly speculative potential industry where everything for now is … speculative.
2. OneTeam Partners was going to be formed regardless of the name, image and likeness situation, CEO Ahmad Nassar said. But it is interesting the NFLPA, MLBPA and venture firm Redbird Capital Partners launched OneTeam in November 2019 to help players "maximize the value of their name image and likeness rights."
Two major-league associations ready to jump into the issue suggests it may be bigger than anticipated. Nassar said the licensing rights to the "Madden" NFL video game are approximately $45 million. OneTeam already has a revenue stake in that game as well as "MLB The Show."
Nassar, also president of NFL Players Inc., speculated that EA Sports' "NCAA Football" group licensing rights would be worth a fraction of that but it wouldn't be "$1 million or $2 million," either. As part of a lawsuit settlement, EA Sports discontinued the highly popular game in 2014. Bringing it back would be one of the most popular -- and possibly lucrative -- aspects to giving players their rights.
Settling on a conservative annual figure of $500 for each player multiplied by the 13,000 FBS football players approximates a group license worth $6.5 million. Remember, this is not necessarily about the amount of money earned by the players, it begins with having the right to earn that money.
"I was in New Orleans," Nassar said. "I saw a whole group of people wearing Joe Burrow No. 9 jerseys. I'm looking at these things thinking, 'This is a moment in time. I'm hoping Joe Burrow will go on to have an amazingly successful career. … The fact that he couldn't capitalize on that [jersey] … that's a problem.'"
Any licensing money in this partnership would be funneled to the players through the National College Players Association, an increasingly powerful California-based athlete rights group.
"Whenever that day comes, sometime in the next five years … we'll be ready for it," Nassar said. "I hope it comes tomorrow because we'd be ready tomorrow."
*UTEP athletic director Jim Senter's athletic budget isn't huge. He manages a department with $32 million in revenue, 96th nationally, according to the latest USA Today financial database. Still, he recently pitched an idea to a group of athletic directors: Give athletes the option of having their name, image and likeness rights "bought out" by a school when they sign their national letters of intent.
Senter threw out the figure $5,000 for each of UTEP's 300 athletes. "That would be a $1.5 million from my budget, which frankly is a hit to my budget," Senter said.
In a way, it would be a way to control costs if, say, players had access to apparel sales. Players such as Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence could, of course, opt out because they are worth much more.
"So, then you think about, maybe we can come up with some concept where kids would be open to accept X amount of dollars," Senter said. "Then we could use their NIL any way we want. … Others could say, 'I think I'm worth more than that.'"
A Big Ten and ACC source recently said they've heard of the idea making the rounds but don't know if it has traction.
"I don't want to pay people I don't have to pay," Senter said. "At the same time, there's people I can't afford to pay."
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