Tuesday July 6, 2021 | 2 a.m
July 1 marked a new day in college sport, as the NCAA – a stronghold of amateurism since its inception – has now begun to allow student-athletes to enjoy their fame.
This is a big step for the NCAA, which has long fought against athletes who could make money because of their name, image and likeness. In the past, if a player sold autographs or jerseys used by the game, this usually resulted in a suspension for the player and penalties against their school. Now, this kind of monetization is completely over the edge.
So how does the process work and how will it affect UNLV athletic programs? Let’s take it step by step:
UNLV came prepared
Although the new rules went into effect on July 1, they have been in the works for over a year. The UNLV has been preparing for this eventuality since October, when sports director Désirée Reed-François appointed a committee to anticipate the changes to come.
The committee was chaired by Eric Nepomuceno, UNLV Senior Associate AD for Compliance, and included coaches, recruiting coordinators and members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board. The group laid the groundwork for the mechanics of the process of likening names and images at UNLV, starting with the creation of The Vegas Effect, a platform that provides athletes with information on how to navigate through the new rules.
“We anticipated that changes in name, image and likeness were going to happen,” said Reed-Francois. “We weren’t sure what form this would take, and we recognize that this is an evolution. … Not all student-athletes will want to be in this space, but for those who do, we want to make sure that we provide them with the education so they can be successful.
Athletes are in charge of their brand
While the UNLV can educate players on the lucrative new landscape, the NCAA prohibits schools from soliciting deals or negotiating on behalf of student-athletes. This means that athletes will have to take the initiative to seek their own opportunities to earn money.
For gamers who want to know what they’re worth, UNLV has teamed up with a third-party company, NOCAP, which provides a variety of marketing and branding services, including helping gamers find business opportunities.
“NOCAP is the market for (student-athletes),” said Nepomuceno. “This will serve as a platform to strengthen education, provide unique resources that will be tailored to the individual, it will help them to enter into contracts, and finally this is where they can engage in opportunities or, what’s really important to us, disclose opportunities.
All gainful activity must be declared
As Nepomuceno said, student-athletes are required to disclose any income outside of their school. Players can choose to do this directly, or in the case of UNLV, they can use NOCAP as an intermediary.
So how can players make money?
There are now a variety of money making opportunities for athletes that were closed prior to July 1.
Players can now sell gear, autographs, or other memorabilia. They can earn money through sponsored social media posts. They can act in television commercials. They can be displayed on billboards. They can open a Patreon account. The possibilities are limitless.
One stipulation is that players cannot use their school’s brand in any activity. So if you see basketball favorite Marvin Coleman peddling for a local business, he won’t be wearing his scarlet and gray UNLV uniform.
Students can hire representation
For a very long time, officers were prohibited from representing college student-athletes. And athletes are still not allowed to work with athletic agents under the new NCAA rules (except when exploring the project). But if a player wishes to buy himself for the purpose of resembling his name, he is now free to hire a marketing agent to research potential deals.
Opportunities to earn money prohibited in recruiting
For many college sports fans, their first (and perhaps the only) question about the resemblance between name and image is how it will affect the team on the pitch. And that means recruiting.
To that end, the NCAA has made it clear that potential money-making opportunities cannot be used as a recruiting tool, and coaches are not allowed to use them as an incentive during the recruiting process. So when Marcus Arroyo takes to the track to find his next left tackle, he can’t tell the 17-year-old tackle all the ways Las Vegas image-like money could make him rich.
Of course, good luck to the NCAA in enforcing this particular rule.
On a related note, official program boosters will not be able to deal directly with student-athletes to offer or procure money-making opportunities.
To legislate on the recall activity, program donors must register with a third-party administrator (in the case of UNLV, NOCAP) to ensure the process remains enjoyable and legal.
“The rules for additional benefits still apply,” said Reed-Francois. “This is why it was important for us to have a third party administrator to ensure that the letter and spirit of the NCAA rules are followed. “
UNLV players are already profiting
On July 1, just hours after the rule came into effect, Reed-Francois said several UNLV student-athletes had already inquired about potential name-likeness opportunities.
While no deal has yet been reported, it appears to be only a matter of time before players start making money.
“One of the beauties of life in Las Vegas is that the possibilities are truly endless,” said Reed-Francois. “As creative as our student-athletes can be, this is how we will see this space used. We now have 515 potential entrepreneurs.
Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.