The Name Of The Game Is NIL

I grew up at a time during the 1970s when a TV game show called Name That Tune awarded a top prize of $100,000 to the winner.

Fast-forward to today, a celebrity version of Name That Tune airs on TV and the top prize is still $100,000.

Meanwhile, Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) is a real thing that has brought serious change, or cha-ching, in finances for many participating in collegiate athletics. There are those who are fortunate enough to benefit financially in the millions of dollars range from this policy modification that permits student athletes to earn money from the use of their Name, Image, and Likeness. Of course, there aren’t enough NIL deals being tossed around that every college athlete on every college campus is earning mega-bucks while also studying for mid-terms.

This reversal of a longtime NCAA rule that prohibited student athletes from benefiting financially because it deemed them as amateurs – who many considered not worthy of being paid like the pros – is  controversial. There are those that stand firm with their opinion that student athletes should not be paid any amount of money simply because they see them as already benefiting financially from receiving scholarships that pay for tuition, room and board. They don’t see them as notably more impactful to colleges and universities than the general student body simply because they participate in athletics. Never mind that higher education institutions like Georgia, Texas and Ohio State generate multi-millions of revenue and free publicity every school year due to their athletic teams.

However, the people in power have spoken. More precisely, state governments and the NCAA have sided with student athletes looking for some level of compensation, by passing laws that allow amateur athletes to profit from use of their Name, Image, and Likeness. Honestly, in America, where capitalism is king, shouldn’t NIL be widely accepted?

It’s refreshing to think that someone like, for instance, a starting quarterback at Alabama, who has thousands of Crimson Tide season ticket holders following his every move, has the chance to earn six- or even seven-figures while playing for the Southeastern Conference football juggernaut. If Nick Saban can earn more than $10 million a year as Alabama’s head coach, which is markedly more than the annual salary ($127,000) of the Alabama governor, then why shouldn’t the starting signal-caller for the Crimson Tide’s offense also be handsomely paid?  After all, Alabama’s football program is a major contributor for generating millions – if not billions of dollars – for the state university and businesses all across the state. Was not Bryce Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, worth the money he earned from NIL deals  during his time playing QB at Alabama?

NIL deals aren’t coming together just for five-star football players, or the next cant-miss 7-footer playing men’s college basketball. Female athletes, such as LSU gymnast Olivia Paige “Livvy” Dunne and five-star Class of 2024 guard Kiyomi McMiller, have signed NIL deals, too. McMiller recently became the first high school athlete to sign a NIL deal with the Jordan Brand.   

Honestly, I see the NIL as a good thing for all involved in this new world of amateur athleticism. It’s also the reason Brinx.TV’s The NIL House, co-hosted by “Sports Science Guy” John Brenkus and Rob Vaka, exists. The daily sports talk show delivers insightful, entertaining, and informative discussion on the topic of Name, Image, and Likeness. It’s a show that recognizes NIL is here to stay.

NIL presents an above-board payment option to student athletes. For decades, college and university athletic programs were placed on probation by the NCAA after discovering that student athletes were being paid under the table by boosters. The need to cheat in that manner has basically been diminished for those looking to gain a competitive advantage by breaking the rules and paying players.

Still, cases will come up in which the NCAA will find some guilty of NIL infractions. The University of Miami women’s basketball team recently became the first collegiate program to receive sanctions from the NCAA for NIL-related infractions involving the arrangement of a meeting between Haley and Hanna Cavinder and a Hurricanes alum before the talented twins had transferred from Fresno State to Miami.

NIL Collectives, which are booster groups that raise money to compensate student athletes for use of their Name, Image, and Likeness, are being formed legitimately on campuses all across the country. NIL and the implementation of the transfer portal allow for potentially more parity than ever before in all collegiate sports. A Collective in support of a mid-major college could in theory help lure top level talent to a university that in the past may have not been in the recruitment discussion for some highly recruited student athletes.  

Furthermore, NIL deals can potentially provide a boost to the economy. By paying student athletes, NIL Collective organizations across the country are putting money into the hands of college athletes  who figure to spend some of that cash and put it right back into the local economy. Anything wrong about that?

To believe that someone competing in college athletics and not “professionally” should not be allowed to earn a living for the use of their Name, Image, and Likeness seems so 1970s Name That Tune.

However, it should be understood, we’re now living in the NIL era, and the tune many student athletes are hearing today is cha-ching.


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