ACC players, teams navigating muddy NIL waters
Miami’s D’Eriq King has been among the first college athletes to take advantage of his newfound ability to profit off his name, image and likeness.
The Hurricanes quarterback agreed to a plethora of deals, including becoming co-owners of Dreamfield, a NIL platform with Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton.
King is among several highprofile college players who have reached deals that could pay them big bucks, including Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who reportedly is set to make up to seven figures this season.
But King isn’t about the cash grab.
“My thing was work with good companies,” the sixthyear senior said during the ACC’s football kickoff on Wednesday. “You can’t work with everybody. You want to work with companies that align with your core values. You don’t want to go out there and work with that company, that company, that company.
“My main goal is to help as many teammates as I can to earn whatever they can earn. It’s not all about me. I want to be by my teammates, for those guys to make as much as possible.”
Schools such as Miami and others in the ACC have spent the last three weeks dealing with the uncertainty surrounding NIL, ever since the legislation’s July 1 enactment in states within the league’s footprint.
“In our conference, we have four schools with state legislation — or four states with state legislation, we have two with state directives, and we have four that rely on the NCAA rule,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips explained. “You can see within our 15 schools and our 10 states there’s an unevenness to what student-athletes can do.
“I think there are incredible opportunities for our student-athletes coming. But we need a national standard. Not having a national standard will cause major disruption.”
The NCAA failed to create its own NIL legislation over the last 15 months, choosing to pin its hope on federal intervention. But with the clock ticking down and Congress at an impasse on the subject, the association was forced to create its own piecemeal rules.
“It’s been my whole life college football,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe. “So I embrace the opportunity. I think it’s great. But I think a lot of people are going to have to learn how to manage it, not just players, families, coaches, media.”
Cutcliffe is worried that players could get so wrapped up in creating their own marketing opportunities that it eventually erodes the brand name of the individual players. He’s also concerned that NIL will seep into recruiting.
“I winched when I saw a quote from a state legislator, ‘We have to get this law passed; this is hurting us in recruiting. That’s not the intent of this,” said Cutcliffe. “The intent, again, is ownership that’s earned. That’s a fair assessment of life.”
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell hired an independent marketing firm to help him formulate a plan of action and one of the first deals he created was with a nonprofit organization that provides meals to underprivileged children living in Chapel Hill.
Howell, who is one of the stars of the conference this season, also wants to reward his teammates as well.
“I’m looking for more opportunities, things where I can involve my teammates, give them some opportunities as well,” said Howell, who is the league’s top returning passer with 3,586 yards last season.
North Carolina recently inked a group licensing deal with Brandr Group this week for all of its athletes. It allows a certain number of Tar Heels players to take advantage of the team’s logos and colors in their own marketing opportunities.
“That means that the backup right guard is going to have a chance to be involved with opportunities that he wouldn’t be if it’s three players on your team that are,” said UNC coach Mack Brown. “… Group licensing helps your whole team. Sam will be OK. Some of the other players will be OK with their opportunities. But what [UNC AD] Bubba [Cunningham] is trying to do, what I want us to do, is be able to help the whole team.”
Despite the allure of NIL opportunities, many players still have their priorities in order.
“Football is still the main thing,” added King. “A lot of people are worried about how it can affect your play. For us, I know the University of Miami, all my teammates, football is the main goal. We’re not worried about the NIL thing.
“We just want to play football. Whenever we have time to deal with that stuff, we’ll deal with that kind of stuff.”
“I’m not really paying attention to that right now,” said Georgia Tech safety Juanyeh Thomas. “The focus is on us and Georgia Tech, we’re just trying to win this year.”