FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In July, the NCAA ruled that college athletes can begin profiting off their name, image and likeness. States set the parameters, and in Arkansas, student-athletes can endorse anything except tobacco, drugs, alcohol, weapons and adult entertainment.
The NCAA sums up the rule changes here.
University of Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan has turned himself into a star after walking onto the team more than four years ago. Now, he can get paid for his passion — playing football.
“If I worked hard these 23 years of my life to be able to make my name this big or make my name to the point where I am the starting linebacker, I should be able to use my name and profit off of it just like anybody else can that’s outside that worked really hard in their job,” Morgan said.
For student-athletes like Morgan, the chance to cash in came just before football season, when the NCAA updated its views on amateurism.
“Student-athletes are able to monetize publicity rights,” Terry Prentice, who runs the Flagship Program at the University of Arkansas, said. “So they’re able to market themselves.”
Prentice familiarizes student-athletes with the rule changes and shows them how best to take advantage of them.
He says when the NIL saw went into effect, he felt a sense of concern from fans.
“Everybody was worried about the sanctity of college sports and the divide in the locker room and team chemistry and whatnot,” Prentice said.
But Prentice says the fall sports programs at the university have shown the opposite, thanks to winning records and great teamwork.
“NIL deals won’t ruin the sanctity of college athletics in the sport,” Prentice said. “I think they’ve proven that so far.”
“And then you know, most importantly, our student-athletes are still going to class.”
Morgan agrees that athletes haven’t lost the ‘student’ aspect and that marketing themselves on top of it has been beneficial.
“We have school, we have football, we have study hall,” Morgan said. “And then we add another job on to it, which is marketing, and being able to do this NIL, that’s just another time management thing that you have to be able to manage.”
Local businesses, like Wright’s BBQ in Johnson, are taking advantage of the rule change.
“We did the whole offensive line,” Jordan Wright, owner of Wright’s BBQ, said. “We did the whole entire women’s basketball team pretty much.”
Razorback athletes shared the hashtag “Body by BBQ” for some money — notably, the football team’s well-fed offensive line.
“They’re big guys,” Wright said. “They’ve got to eat but, we feed them a lot at the school for their football meals and stuff. So, it was just something cool. Felt like it fit feeding the offensive linemen.”
Some high-profile athletes from top programs have made close to $1 million, like Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. University of Miami quarterback D’Eriq King has signed several deals that earn him five figures. Even athletes who haven’t played a game in college have made a ton: before the college basketball season started, Tennessee State University guard Hercy Miller signed a $2 million deal.
The vast majority of deals, though, like those from Wright’s BBQ, don’t give players life-changing checks.
“We just want to be able to help student-athletes, you know, get some extra benefits for what they do for the area,” Wright said.
Morgan says he’s signed about twenty deals in the few months the NIL rules have been in effect.
“Big red stores, for example,” Morgan said. “They flew me and my wife out to Little Rock to do a couple commercials.”
At the University of Arkansas, it’s not just athletes in the big money-making sports who are striking deals.
“All 19 of our sports have had the opportunity to have at least one student-athlete take advantage of their name, image, or likeness,” Prentice said. “We really feel like we’re the first school that’s been able to claim something as such as this.”
Looking ahead, Prentice says the opportunities for student-athletes will only grow.
“I think we’ve only just begun,” Prentice said. “I think you’re gonna continue to see more creativity, you’re going to continue to see more businesses, engage our student-athletes. You might even see some student-athletes starting their own businesses.”
Morgan, who’s a senior, gets to practice his endorsement skills for the NFL
“It’s helped with time management,” Morgan said. “I think it has better-prepared people for the NFL.”