ATLANTA. It hasn’t even been a full year since the law first went into effect allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL), and we’ve already seen national title-winning coaches blaming each other in public. about illegal payments to players, reports of a recruit making an $8 million NIL deal before raffling off one college shot, and a message board furor over possible NIL motives being used to lure the current Biletnikoff Award winner into transfer portal.

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In Miami, the NCAA is looking into NIL deals offered by a well-known booster. Ohio State coach Ryan Day suggested that the school needed $13 million in NIL funding to maintain its roster. Time and time again, the ripple effects of last year’s landmark change at the NIL have created havoc around college athletics.

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But this week at the College Football Hall of Fame, hundreds of college athletes met with corporate executives, influencers and startups in what seemed like a respite from the controversy at the NIL Summit. Here the Meta talked about investing in college athletes as the next generation of content creators, former WWE star Paul Levesque aka Triple H announced partnerships with current college athletes in countless sports that could one day be the next breakout professional wrestlers, and the Stars SEC football players such as Will Lewis exchanged NIL tips with Division III basketball players.

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Indeed, the three days of the NIL summit opened another window into what is happening on college campuses, now steeped in names, images and likenesses, and much of the feedback came from Sportzshala conversations with more than a dozen athletes, lawyers, agents. and entrepreneurs contrasted sharply with the bulk of the recent headlines.

Here is some of what we learned.

Many athletes have value.

The biggest stars in college sports are clearly cashing in on NIL deals, but this week’s event also sheds light on the value of lesser-known athletes across all sports and divisions. Meta, for example, was keen to talk to athletes about how best to use their social media apps like Facebook and Instagram to build their brands. Why? Meta sees these athletes as content creators who drive engagement, especially with a young and often hard-to-reach audience, which is key to Meta’s long-term growth. Deals with, say, a Division III footballer aren’t worth that much, but with a few thousand athletes involved, the reach can be huge.

WWE, on the other hand, is less interested in casting wide net to get more attention, but instead bets that at least one or two of those small bets will pay off in the future when a lesser-known college athlete blossom. next Roman Reigns or The Rock.

Many of the athletes who attended the NIL summit signed dozens of NIL contracts – some with national brands like Degree or Gatorade, but often with smaller local companies.

Yes, there are other NIL deals that are more like pay-per-play, and while the athletes who spoke to Sportzshala didn’t say it was ultimately a bad thing, they generally complained that the more controversial or high-profile NIL deals dominated. on the market. topics of discussion when so many lesser-known athletes have succeeded in the sense that the NIL rules were originally supposed to.

It is difficult to understand what the market value is.

The value of these deals – both for companies and athletes – seemed obvious. What has been much less clear is how much value is being created. There is no central database of NIL deals, and while most contracts go through the school’s compliance department, others – those that hedge much closer to pay-per-play – may not get through. Many of the athletes who spoke to Sportzshala said they have honed their pricing strategies through trial and error and have little to no idea of ​​what constitutes a fair market rate.

However, one constant refrain about money has been that much of what has been reported in the media is wildly at odds with reality. Yes, some athletes have made seven-figure deals, but that’s incredibly rare. For example, the average income from a social media post can be as low as $20, while even high-profile athletes with large followings rarely make deals worth more than $20,000.

Schools don’t offer enough help.

The past year has seen some impressive news releases touting new NIL departments in schools across the country, but the reality is that few of these programs are providing the help athletes need.

Nearly every athlete who spoke to Sportzshala at this week’s summit said that the bulk of their NIL deals involved cold business calls or old-fashioned fuss. Many were either unaware of the tools that might be available in their schools or found that these institutions were unable to offer fundamental tools such as advice on contract law, financial planning, networking opportunities or basic life skills. Several participants said they heard from athletes who didn’t even know how to open a checking account to deposit NIL checks.

While some schools have clearly made the NIL a priority, others are hindered by state laws that limit their ability to help athletes while simply not having the appropriate resources to help, often staffing NIL departments with unskilled workforce or adding NIL duties to job responsibilities already overburdened. employment of sports information or compliance officers.

However, this seems like an area ripe for change. Competition in the NIL space will force schools to adapt whether they like it or not. In an ideal world, this process would include athletes as partners in the development of support systems.

In the meantime, many of the athletes Sportzshala spoke to at the summit were interested in supporting teammates and players at other schools, including starting their own NIL training and education business.

Not all teams are bad, but some are.

While the NIL Summit was largely focused on traditional branding and marketing, it was impossible to ignore the emergence of collectives – groups of supporters and fans who contribute to a fund dedicated to providing NIL opportunities to athletes. Teams have come under scrutiny due to a lack of regulation and near-constant rumors of recruit incentives and transfers or paid deals being offered to existing players.

While no one seemed keen to deny the potential dangers associated with collectives, several agents and lawyers involved in the NIL space said collectives run the gamut from well-managed, athlete-focused and financially stable to de facto shell corporations with dubious interests. in player support. .

For the most part, however, they assumed that the collectives were well-intentioned, though not always particularly helpful. Collectives hoping to serve as a one-stop-shop for all things NIL may find it difficult to provide adequate expertise to allow athletes to cut bad deals, give up long-term likeness rights, or receive bad legal advice simply because they trust the collective. work for which its employees were not qualified.

We are in a transitional period.

Another common refrain from many NIL summit attendees was the reminder that this is still new. There were very few answers to all the questions “what will happen next”. The NIL has undoubtedly moved collegiate sports away from traditional amateurism, but whether this is also a big move towards a professional model is still unclear. While some pundits theorized that unionization and collective bargaining were the ultimate goal, few athletes seem to have seriously thought about it, with several lawyers and agents saying that the road to unionization would be incredibly difficult, suggesting instead, that the group licensing model could be better. fit.

While school presidents and administrators pleaded for federal oversight of the NIL, few in Atlanta believed it would happen after recent attempts by Greg Sankey and George Klyavkov to woo Congress failed to produce major moves.

More likely, a lawsuit would have been more likely, which would have more clearly defined the structure of the market, several sources said. What happens when an athlete who unwittingly transferred NIL rights to a collective wants to terminate this contract? What happens when a company decides that an athlete did not perform well enough to warrant payment? What happens when the IRS calls because they’re not sure why a sports team needs nonprofit status? The outcome of potential lawsuits may ultimately determine what NIL looks like in the future.