Thursday marked a new era in college sports, it marked the very first day that college athletes can officially profit off of their name image an likeness. And Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek believes the collegiate realm may never be the same.
“I think we are on the cusp on major changes in our industry. Major changes,” said Yurachek.
Although changes may come, Yurachek and his athletic department have been ready for them for months, having launched their new program ‘Flagship’ in May to guide student athletes through all that name, image and likeness entails.
“Flagship is really a personal branding program for our student athletes and that encompasses the name, image and likeness legislation teaches them business fundamentals, business skills,” said Terry Prentice, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Athlete Brand Development, who is spearheading Flagship. “We’ll touch on taxes and agents and certifications. In a nutshell it’s a person branding program for our athletes.”
It’s one of the first programs of it’s kind, a five-week course teaching students the in’s and out’s of NIL. And with athletes like Razorback wide receiver Trey Knox already signing a deal with PetSmart, Arkansas knew a program like this was needed.
“What we wanted to do is to best prepare our student athletes to have success in this area, just like we want them to have success academically and athletically, we wanted their preparation to be above any of their colleagues across this country,” Yurachek said.
But could there be a downside to this new era of college sports, like cheating? Yurachek says it could only add to an existing problem.
“I think that’s one of the reasons the legislation hasn’t passed yet because we haven’t figured out in our industry how to legislate basic human integrity. There has been cheating that’s gone on in the recruiting business for decades and we haven’t wrapped our arms around it enough. It’s going to happen in the name, image and likeness space,” he said. “We will put the necessary guardrails up after we see how this plays out in the first couple of years.”
Yurachek made it clear that the University of Arkansas won’t be one of them. But bad apples aside, the Razorbacks believe this new legislation will benefit all 465 athletes in their athletic program.
“Name, image and likeness is certainly a vehicle that is going to open up a ton of avenues for our student athletes. And that goes for the starting on the football team, maybe your starting quarterback, all the way down to a walk-on on any of our other sports,” Prentice said. “We have some very creative student-athletes at the University of Arkansas and all of them will benefit from this legislation and we hope all of them and we hope that all of them will benefit from Flagship.”