How does the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) ruling impact schools and athletes?

November 29, 2021

Football, baseball, badminton, and water polo

What do they have in common? Paid athletes!

By now athletic directors and student-athletes around the world are aware of the recent rule changes allowing athletes to earn money for their name, image, and likeness (NIL). What you might not know is that this isn’t just a payday opportunity for starters at elite programs. Division II and III athletes are signing NIL deals!

As ESPN’s Dan Murphy says, “College sports is in the midst of its most significant changes in a generation.” 

The Business of College Sports is maintaining a list of NIL policies by school. This is a good resource for the curious, but keep in mind NIL changes have been sweeping the country in 2021. Before long, every college and/or state will have some type of policy describing how student-athletes can be compensated for their NIL.

How to be a marketable athlete

There are three categories of marketability that are good starting points for anyone exploring NIL options. But remember this is a brand new opportunity for students, so think big! 

  • On-field performance. Let’s start with the obvious. The best players in their sport are obvious candidates for NIL paychecks, especially the media-friendly sports like basketball and football. 
  • School reputation. Starters might get more attention on gameday, but just being on the squad of a top-tier program opens doors. Playing at a unique school or in an appealing city is also a draw. 
  • Social media influence. Brands and marketing agencies make no secret about their search for micro-influencers. Athletes don’t need a million Instagram followers to get a paycheck, they just need engaged followers.

It’s always encouraging when you can visualize yourself in a success story. 

Yes, high school athletes can benefit from NIL

The college ruling has had a snowball effect. While not as common yet, high school students are getting compensated for their name, image, and likeness. Athletic directors and coaches in every state need to pay attention to this cultural shift. As of Fall 2021, the following states allow high schoolers to earn on their NIL:

(1) California

The California Interscholastic Federation allows high schoolers to be compensated as individual players.

(2) Illinois

The Illinois High School Association allows high schoolers to be compensated, with even more flexibility for students who start their own company.

(3) Maine

Section 5 of the Maine Principals’ Association Handbook lists the acceptable forms of inducement. 

(4) North Dakota 

The North Dakota High School Activities Association allows high schoolers to be compensated as individual players.

(5) Utah

The Utah High School Activities Association allows high schoolers to be compensated as individual players. 

(6) Vermont

The Vermont Principals’ Association does not prohibit high schoolers from being compensated as individual athletes.