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College athletes cashing in on name, image, likeness rules

NIL rules came into play in July 2021, and one expert says they may save college sports.

MINNEAPOLIS — The compensation era of college sports officially began in July 2021. Name, image, likeness rules, or NIL, allows roughly 480,000 athletes to monetize themselves. 

There’s still a lot to figure out in the space, but with close to a year in the books let’s look at how it’s playing out so far.

For less than a year, college athletes have been able to profit off themselves. Athliance CEO Peter Schoenthal deals in this space and has already seen a healthy exchange of goods, services, and cash. “Whether it’s athletes doing camps, hosting lessons, reaching out to local restaurants, supporting charities.”

According to Opendorse, a digital platform connecting athletes and brands, the sports that get the most NIL compensation are football, followed by women’s basketball, men’s basketball, and women’s volleyball.

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Schoenthal says it’s not only high-profile athletes that can capitalize, because NIL is driven by marketability and not performance. Meaning athletes with strong followings, no matter the sport. Talent at D-2 and D-3 schools can still benefit. “Local businesses on college campuses are a big driver of this," Schoenthal said, "because of the notoriety these athletes have from a local standpoint.” 

Early data through Feb. 28, 2022, shows the Big Ten, Big East and Big 12 are the top three conferences for NIL compensation. The average compensation per athlete with at least one deal in Division I is $561, Division II is $57.00, Division III is $35.00

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Even though NIL is in its infancy, Schoenthal is bullish that it’s a step in the right direction by the NCAA to keep the current model of college sports in place.

“NIL is going to be something that I believe will save college athletics," said Schoenthal. "However even with all the perks college athletes get it’s still not enough. A lot of these individuals come from low-income areas – they need more financial support.”

RELATED: March Madness players get to cash in on success for first time under new rules

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