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As NIL deals change college sports, what does it mean for high schools?

For Minnesota high school sports, it's impact, for now, has been minimal; but that doesn't mean it won't change.

ST PAUL, Minn. — NIL, also known as "Name, Image and Likeness," is now a huge part of college sports; and has, in some cases, turned things upside down.

For Minnesota high school sports, it's impact, for now, has been minimal; but that doesn't mean it won't change.

Cooper High School's four-star football player Jaxon Howard landed NIL representation with Minnesota-based IFA in August. What that means is: that company will handle his brand marketing, which starts right now. 

The idea is, Howard, an LSU recruit, can eventually make money off his name, image or likeness through advertising. The Minnesota State high school league is allowing athletes to profit as long as activities do not interfere with academics.

Howard is one of the first big-name male athletes in Minnesota high school sports to dip his toe in the water, and it could soon lead to many more.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Edina High School soccer player (and Minnesota Aurora goalkeeper) Bayliss Flynn became the first high school student in Minnesota to sign an NIL deal in June.

RELATED: Minnesota Aurora goalkeeper becomes first high school student to sign NIL deal in state

"The biggest issue is that it's so new," said South St. Paul head football coach Manuel Spreigl. "I mean, it's essentially like the high school crypto version; you know ... we're living in it and we haven't gotten to see, like, how it's going to pan out. One, two, three, four years down the road."

"It is a slippery slope," said Andover head football coach Tom Develice. "I'm not a fan of it at all. I think that it can cause dangerous problems."

Coaches are now left to wonder if it could affect Minnesota high school football in any way.

"Potential communities could benefit from that or potential you know, private schools versus public schools. You know, those are real things," said St. Michael-Albertville head football coach Jared Essler.

"If you can attract people to come and play ... not only because of your school, your programs, and your facilities, but now we can fund you playing in some capacity, that creates an unfair advantage, I guess you would say," said Stillwater head football coach Beau LaBore.

"The high school league is going to need to police it, if they're not, they're going to have to have some teeth behind it," said Woodbury head football coach Andy Hill.

"I don't see how it can be controlled unless there's a set of rules in place that really stipulates how much, how old, who, you know," said Park Center head coach Jordan Sallis.

Some coaches also expressed concern that NIL deals, someday down the road, could fracture delicate locker room chemistry, the true lifeblood of success of any high school sports team. And that worries some coaches.

"Just because I've seen what it's done at the college level and it's kind of turned it into basically free agency," said Prior Lake head football coach Matt Gegenheimer. "And I think that there's some animosity between players within the locker room of you get this much for a NIL and I only get this. And it affects your team culture. And to think about that leaking into the high school level is scary."

"My biggest fear really, besides the money: if I have a young man at park center who signed a lucrative NIL deal, am I going to be able to coach in the same way?" Sallis said. "Is his attitude still going to be the same in which I try to teach in this culture, teach in our culture?"

"I think over the next couple of years, we'll see many different things from it," said St. Thomas Academy coach Dan O'Brien. "And I think there'll be some things that are going to be ugly. And I think there may be some real positive things that can come out of it as well."

"That's just the world we live in," said Cretin-Derham Hall head coach Steve Walsh. "And we'll have to adjust and we'll have to adapt. I'm never going to say, Oh, you didn't deserve that, right? If somebody is willing to pay you for it, you deserved it."

Coaches are again looking to the Minnesota State High School League for any further guidance on NIL, and we will likely see more on this as more student-athletes get involved.

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