Deestroying ncaa athletes making money endorsement rules, can getting paid

College Athletes Profit as Generations of Rules Fade.

Thursday marks a watershed moment in college sports, with relaxed N.C.A.A. policies and new laws allowing players to profit from their celebrity.

D'Eriq King, the star quarterback at the University of Miami, has spent the offseason preparing for the Hurricanes' September opener against Alabama. To begin, he will open for business on Thursday, when college athletes can begin earning money from their celebrity.

His calendar may soon include autograph signings and paid appearances. There may be advertising campaigns and monetized social media posts, as well as sports camps and videotaped greetings for fans, all of which he hopes will add up to a six-figure income.

“I'm just trying to maintain my composure,” King said in an interview last month in his apartment in Miami's Wynwood district, before individuals and businesses could begin making him offers via a website. “I have a few ideas that I am certain I will pursue, and whatever comes later will come.”

The changes that take effect on Thursday represent some of the most significant shifts in the N.C.A.A.'s 115-year history, which has spent generations insisting that students should play only as amateurs and receive no compensation beyond the cost of attending college.

D'Eriq King, a University of Miami quarterback, at Miami's Curtis Park. King has stated that he will be open for business in order to earn money through a variety of outlets, including autograph signings, personal appearances, and social media.
D'Eriq King, a University of Miami quarterback, at Miami's Curtis Park. King has stated that he will be open for business in order to earn money through a variety of outlets, including autograph signings, personal appearances, and social media.

Student athletes' entry into a previously forbidden market is expected to funnel millions of dollars their way and reshape the economic landscape of college sports. It is also fraught with difficulties, such as uncertainty about commercial values, business pitches with caveats and varying quality, as well as certain team imbalances.

Above the individual transactions, a more fundamental conundrum is emerging: how to balance sports with school, adolescence, and, now, business.

Many of America's college athletes have been strategizing in locker rooms and group texts, in apartments and over meals, about how to seize opportunities that seemed inconceivable when schools recruited them just a few years ago. Players have already begun publicly registering trademarks and teasing apparel lines.

However, the prospect of athletes earning money continues to frighten many executives, who are concerned about schools losing marketing dollars. They have expressed concern about unscrupulous boosters flouting rules and launching new pay-to-play schemes, fearful that recruiting and, ultimately, competitions could be jeopardized.

None of this has deterred states such as Florida from enacting legislation or issuing executive orders aimed at subverting N.C.A.A. policies beginning Thursday, the culmination of a groundswell of public pressure.

Just Wednesday, the N.C.A.A. relaxed its policies for students and schools in other states, a concession that came long after state laws gained traction. The association, which was rocked last week by a Supreme Court decision that increased its vulnerability to antitrust lawsuits, has taken a largely hands-off approach and will not penalize players who earn money off their names, images, and likenesses.

Gene Smith, who has served as an athletic director in Division I, the N.C.A.A.'s highest tier, since 1986, said the changes underway may be the most significant of his career.

“This ecosystem will evolve and we will learn alongside it, which is why I am comfortable with us removing the guardrails and tweaking it as we move forward,” said Smith, who is now at Ohio State and views the new system as an opportunity to teach students about the world beyond their campuses.

“We need to see and learn,” he explained. “Until two years ago, I had no idea what Cameo was.”

Isaiah Livers of Michigan wore a T-shirt reading "#NotNCAAProperty" during the N.C.A.A. tournament.
Isaiah Livers of Michigan wore a T-shirt reading "#NotNCAAProperty" during the N.C.A.A. tournament.
Discontented murmurs became a roar.

Apart from the commissioner of the National Football League, there may be no greater lightning rod in American sports than the N.C.A.A., which enforces the rules that approximately 1,100 colleges and universities establish for approximately 500,000 student-athletes. The N.C.A.A. is frequently portrayed as aloof, bureaucratic, and prone to self-inflicted crises under President Mark Emmert.

It proved to be a perilous combination as the college sports industry, which earned approximately $1 billion in 1985 from Division I basketball and football, benefited from soaring television deals and grew into a behemoth worth more than $14 billion annually.

Games became more glitzy. Salaries for coaches have skyrocketed. Classrooms occasionally deteriorated as athletic training facilities became more akin to palaces. While the system continued to benefit thousands of players pursuing degrees, the public perception of the distinction between college athletes and professional athletes shifted.

However, the N.C.A.A.'s position on compensation remained largely unchanged — that students could possibly play for tuition, room, and board, and, in more recent years, other limited living expenses. The disparity between player restrictions and what coaches and administrators desired bred discontent that eventually reached the nation's statehouses, most notably in California in 2019, and Congress.

Democrats framed the debate as one of economic and human fundamental rights. Republicans blasted the N.C.A.A.'s rule book, which has been the subject of litigation for years, as an unjustified restraint on free markets. State after state enacted legislation to thwart N.C.A.A. policies. And as a result, the association became an even more tempting target for insiders and detractors alike.

“The cheese was being dropped in front of us along the way, and we failed to resolve our issue in a way that would appease the courts and legislators,” Dennis Thomas, the long-serving commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, explained. “So, we've arrived here.”

“People want to pin the blame on one person,” he continued. They wish to pin the blame on Mark Emmert. However, we are all complicit in this narrative.”

As states challenged the N.C.A.A., athletes speculated on what their futures might look like if they could earn a few hundred or thousand dollars on occasion. They refined their message along the way, until it became increasingly palatable to the public.

“We are not paid salaries,” Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton explained. “It's profiting from your name, image, and likeness, which any other college student can do while working in their communities as a social media influencer.”

Last season, King completed a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Harley (No. 3) in a game against North Carolina.
Last season, King completed a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Harley (No. 3) in a game against North Carolina.
A transient star may be one that is bankable.

King grew up in Texas as the son of a football coach and began playing when he was four years old.

As a freshman, he was his high school's starting quarterback. Nebraska, a fading but fabled power, was the first to write to him about college. Nonetheless, he had no intention of earning money anytime soon.

“It's crazy that it's here now,” he said, “but four or five years ago, I would not have believed that college players could be compensated for their names.”

He began his career at Houston, where he suffered a knee injury but threw for 4,925 yards and 50 touchdowns in four seasons. He transferred to Miami in 2020 and completed over 64% of his passes while averaging more than 8 yards per throw. Another knee injury set the stage for a trying off-season.

Nonetheless, experts believe he is the type of player who will thrive in the era of name, image, and likeness payments: a player with widespread name recognition, particularly in a city like Miami, who has the potential to rise to the professional ranks. Other athletes may earn some money, but researchers believe the majority of the money will go to men's basketball and football players.

Additionally, experts predict that the relaxed restrictions will benefit women, who have fewer lucrative opportunities in professional sports than men but frequently enjoy large and loyal audiences during their college years.

State laws and reimagined N.C.A.A. policies have created a buffet of revenue-generating opportunities for athletes. While there are some restrictions, such as a provision allowing Alabama universities to prohibit players from entering into deals with alcohol companies, players will largely be able to tailor their businesses to their interests. To assist them in navigating the new world, companies and platforms with Silicon Valley sensibilities have emerged, such as Dreamfield, which King and Milton have quietly advised for months. They are acquiring stakes in the Orlando-based company, which takes a similar approach to a number of others.

Businesses can search the Dreamfield's website for athletes to hire for five different types of events, including meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and paid speeches. The rates, which are set by athletes and currently range between $100 and $2,000 per hour, are not negotiable, and if a player accepts a proposal, the company will generate a contract.

Dreamfield intends to charge companies or individuals who hire athletes a 15% fee in addition to the player's base rate. Later, Dreamfield will send paperwork to players, who will be classified as independent contractors, so they can prepare their taxes. (Smith of Ohio State said he occasionally jokes with players, "Don't worry about the NCAA; worry about the Internal Revenue Service.")

Player after player asserts that their sports will continue to take precedence. After all, it is due to their abilities and celebrity that businesses may write larger checks in the future.

“The primary focus is on football, and anything else is a bonus,” Milton, who is entering his final year as a college athlete, said. “Anything is preferable to nothing, so we'll see what some of these guys can do.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last year during the signing of a bill allowing college athletes in the state to earn money through endorsement deals.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last year during the signing of a bill allowing college athletes in the state to earn money through endorsement deals.
July 1 became a calendar date.

King lives with teammates in a decidedly barren apartment, albeit one with a towering view of Biscayne Bay, aided by his cost of attendance stipend, a recent innovation in college sports. He readily admits his fortune. Additionally, he is aware of the amount of money that flows in and out of major-college athletic departments. (While Miami is a private institution, federal records indicate that its athletic department earned more than $115 million between June 2019 and May 2020. It was credited with $59.4 million in revenue during that time period for its football program.)

“We see schools earning $50 million to $60 million per year off the backs of athletes,” he explained. “I am appreciative of my scholarship. I am indebted to the University of Miami and the school to which I attended. However, that is not equivalent to a $60 million scholarship.”

Nonetheless, Miami, which hosted the signing ceremony for Florida's law last year, has been one of the most vocal schools in publicly advocating for name, image, and likeness changes. In December, the school announced a partnership with INFLCR, a nonprofit organization that works with numerous schools to help students understand the opportunities ahead. At the time, football coach Manny Diaz lauded the deal as an opportunity for players to "build their brand in the heart of one of the world's most dynamic cities."

Prior to this week's opening, King attended university-sponsored Wednesday personal finance classes to sort through a slew of issues. He enlisted the assistance of his mother and brother in evaluating any potential offers, sketched out ambitions for a podcast, and considered the types of activities that piqued his interest. He indicated that his favorite activities were autograph signings and speaking engagements.

With summer football commitments completed around lunchtime, he said, there were still plenty of hours in the day to pick up gigs that athletes have never had.

He stated that he intended to save the majority of his earnings and possibly send some back to Texas as he prepares for life after his final season at Miami. He stated that he had no immediate plans to trade in his Jeep Wrangler for one of the gleaming imports that line the highways of South Florida.

However, as Thursday approached, he expressed excitement at the prospect of finally earning some of what he believes is rightfully his. For far too long, he and other players contended, the system benefited the majority — but not always them.

“In some ways, you could say we were exploited,” he explained. “I believe that many people only see us on Saturdays, which is a problem. If they had seen what we do on a daily basis, they would understand why getting paid is such a big deal to us.”