NIL deals for high school and college athletes continue to ramp up. Let's look at some of what's happened in the world of NIL recently.
Big Moves For College Athletes
Iowa's Caitlin Clark has signed an agreement with Gatorade. As the National Player of the Year, Clark becomes the fourth college athlete to sign a deal with the massive beverage company and the second women's basketball player. Clark noted that NIL has allowed for more than just an opportunity to make money while in school. "Athletes are learning about entire industries, how they work, and how we might be able to pursue other passions while we are playing and after our playing careers are over," she told ESPN.
Meanwhile, Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson signed a deal with Crocs — just prior to becoming a Rose Bowl hero for the Wolverines. But the deal didn't come without some serious persistence. "Two years of outreach, conversations, and follow ups, we finally got Roman Wilson a partnership with his favorite brand, Crocs," says Matt Knox, founder of the agency representing Wilson.
And in one of the more unique collaborations, University of Tennessee wide receiver Squirrel White signed an agreement with NHL franchise Nashville Predators. All of this comes not long after NCAA president Charlie Baker proposed a new rule that would allow Division 1 schools to directly enter into financial agreements with players.
Looking At Some Of The Biggest NIL Deals For High School Recruits
While a lot of athletes seek and receive offers once they get to school, elite recruits in certain sports receive offers before even officially graduating high school.
In its coverage of the Under Armour All-America Game, The Athletic asked some college commits to anonymously share what kind of NIL deals they got to go to their chosen school — and how much it mattered in their decision. One player noted that all of the school collectives offered around the same amount of money. "It wasn’t a big difference for me in terms of the total package," they said. "All the schools offered about $300,000 to $400,000 per year with the ability to earn more."
In another instance, one player mentioned that the NIL deal came with additional expectations. "I left some money on the table," they said. "I didn’t bring up NIL until my official visits. One team told me if I committed early and helped bring other guys in, they’d give me $40,000 a month up until I signed. But I didn’t sign with them."
Meanwhile, some players turned down six figured for smaller amounts because they had the opportunity to play earlier. Some turned it down in order to go play for certain coaches. And some accepted less money because they ultimately wanted to go to their dream school. It's a good reminder that, while NIL deals have certainly added a level of "business" to the sport, a lot of decisions are still being made by considering a lot of other factors, including intangible and emotional ones.
As one player put it plainly, "I signed with the team that gave me the best chance to make the NFL, not the most NIL money."
It's Not Just About Big Names, Big Companies, And Big Sports, Though
Perhaps the most important thing to know about NIL deals is they're available to college athletes in essentially any sport at schools with just a few thousand students to the biggest universities in the world. In fact, we did an interview with an athlete who can share plenty more about how NIL deals aren't just for the most sought-after recruits.
Virginia State running back Rayquan Smith is another example of an athlete who is making the most of his NIL opportunities without necessarily being on TV every Saturday. A player at an HBCU (historically Black college or university), Smith has landed over 80 NIL deals with both national brands and local companies.
And then there are examples like Washington State University quarterback John Mateer and a local barbecue restaurant, Miss Huddy's. The pair entered into an agreement mostly because Miss Huddy's makes food reminiscent of where Mateer hails from in Texas. Sometimes it really is that simple.