Pros and Cons of NIL for Student-Athletes

The following is a non-exhaustive list of Pros and Cons of Name, Image & Likeness (“NIL”) – especially in the collegiate space:


1. Freedom and Equal Protection. Each student-athlete is now free to capitalize on his/her NIL. Before NIL was permitted, collegiate student-athletes were arguably not equally protected under the law. This is an odd concept, but generally think about it this way: collegiate student-athletes are now permitted to enter into NIL/endorsement deals, just like every other citizen of our country.

2. Money will be paid during a time when student-athletes need the money and have a short, but significant earning capacity. Per Opendorse, 43% of Division I athletes do not receive any athletic financial aid related to their status as an athlete “…and most have expenses to pay.” NIL Opportunities Can Close the Scholarship Gap – Opendorse. “98% of student-athletes will have their athletic career end when they walk across the stage to get their diploma.” Id.

3. Student-athletes are finally able to share (somewhat) in the tremendous revenue stream created by college sports. It is no secret that Universities and the NCAA have earned billions off the backs of student-athletes.  NIL permits student-athletes to share in this incredible revenue stream (to some extent).

4. NIL can and will be used to retain student-athletes at risk of jumping into the NCAA Transfer Portal. I expect this to have its biggest impact in Power 5 Conferences, including especially the SEC.   

5. At certain schools, NIL will probably improve talent (and likely success) of collegiate teams on the field/court.  I think we will see an increased trend of athletes remaining on teams longer, staying in college longer and completing their eligibility. NIL may also contribute to increased graduation rates in the coming years, as a product of student-athletes staying in school longer to capitalize on NIL.  Of course, time will tell. At some elite schools eager to produce the very best team possible, these anticipated trends will be viewed as Cons (except for increased graduation rates).


1. Lack of Proper Supervision/Oversight. The lack of proper supervision pervasively across the NIL landscape is staggering.  At this time, NIL has very little (to no) actual oversight relative to Collectives, sports agents, fees, deals, student-athletes, payments to student-athletes and contracts, including student-athlete/Collective engagement agreements, which can seriously prejudice young athletes.  I agree with those who liken the present NIL situation to driving down a highway with speed limit signs, but no police to enforce the speed limit. This threshold issue sets up a number of other concerns or problems across the NIL space.  See below.

2. High Risk of Student-Athlete Abuses. Due to a lack of adequate oversight at this time, NIL carries a high risk of abuse to student-athletes, ranging from being manipulated, lied to and/or taken advantage of by sports agents, Collectives, vendors and/or others (even media). Many times, student-athletes sign NIL contracts blinded by the money, excitement and attention and don’t read or consider the details or import of what they’re signing.  And it seems they rarely call an attorney (or can afford one) for professional advice.  On the other hand, do you think a sports agent or Collective is likely to hire an attorney for an NIL transaction with a student-athlete?  Within the Power 5 Conferences, the answer is invariably – and emphatically – yes.  This commonly-found situation places these student-athletes at a decided disadvantage.  Who fights for the rights of the student-athletes? Without adequate supervision/oversight, student-athlete abuses are likely to increase – and worsen.   

3. Risk of Inducing Student-Athletes to Enroll in a University

4. Risk of Pay-to-Play to Student-Athletes.

5. Risk of Disparity in NIL Opportunities and Deals. Most people do not realize that at most Power 5 Conference schools, only a handful of elite athletes are receiving significant NIL money, while the vast majority of the other student-athletes do not receive any – or any significant – NIL money.  Where I live, in Knoxville, TN, this disparity impacts the vast majority of student-athletes at the University of Tennessee, and notably impacts the Football, Baseball and Men’s Basketball teams – and I think their future success. 

There are certainly other Pros and Cons to consider.  And I have a feeling the debate will continue.

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