On July 1, 2021 the college sports world was forever transformed when the NCAA, after years of debate, finally allowed college athletes, in any division, to profit off of their own name, image, or likeness (NIL).
The NCAA changed the policy in the face of numerous states allowing college athletes to market themselves and a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that raised questions on whether the NCAA was breaking antitrust laws.
In the past, the NCAA prohibited any college athlete from receiving any sort of endorsement or outside money in order to uphold amateurism, the belief that student-athletes are not professional athletes and thus shouldn’t be compensated like pros. If an athlete was found to have broken these rules they could be suspended, lose eligibility or be forced to give up awards like in the infamous case of Reggie Bush, who had to give up the Heisman Trophy.
Drake athletes have to notify the athletic department before entering any sponsorship or agreement. Conor Enright, a first-year on the men’s basketball team is currently sponsored by Slocheofficial, Divine Hoops, and Barstool Sports.
“Being a Barstool Athlete is really awesome to me just because it was the first NIL deal I was a part of. The title in itself is never something I thought I would be able to say,” Enright said. “Most of my promotional stuff is posting on instagram about certain accounts and what they offer. As well as using their website links and discount codes in my bio on social media and stories.”
Enright said he felt “ecstatic” when he heard about the NCAA changing their NIL policy because it gives athletes “so many opportunities,” and he thinks it should have happened earlier with many former college athletes missing out on this opportunity.
Enright also said he doesn’t believe there are many downsides to the new policy change.
“I haven’t experienced it yet at all, but I do believe that there are companies or people out there who don’t have the athletes’ best interest at heart,” Enright said. “Gladly, all my brands have been great.”
Drake’s athletic department partnered with NOCAP Sports, along with a partnership with INFLCR, a software company, secured via the Missouri Valley Conference to help student-athletes market their NIL.
“We have relationships with NOCAP Sports and INFLCR to help with the monitoring and promotion of our student-athletes. We knew early on that one of the largest threats the new NIL landscape presented was going to be in monitoring the activities of our student-athletes. Both NOCAP Sports and INFLCR help us in those efforts,” said Brian Hardin, Drake’s athletic director. “From the student-athlete perspective, both NOCAP Sports and INFLCR have platforms that help connect student-athletes with businesses and individuals.”
Hardin credits Catherine Walker, the assistant athletic director, for establishing a relationship with NOCAP Sports as she was familiar with the company.
“The Athletic Department had Catherine Walker, who is a part of compliance, come in and explain everything to us. They were trying to help us understand what NIL really meant for us,” Enright said. “They encouraged us to reach out and talk to people, but just showing how to do it the right way. All of the endorsements I have, was just by me reaching out myself.”
On whether or not the new NIL policies could change recruitment as Drake competes in Division 1 Hardin said that they are not able to use NIL to persuade potential student-athletes to choose Drake.
“However, over time and different NIL examples emerge with our student-athletes, we could legally point out the success stories we have from our student-athletes attending a school in a market such as Des Moines,” Hardin said.
Enright said that “bigger schools” may appeal to some athletes as they may allow for more NIL opportunities, but that it had no influence on his decision to play for Drake.
“Well, actually, I committed to Drake before I even played my junior year of basketball,” Enright said. “At that time I wasn’t really thinking or hearing much about the impact of NIL. I just loved the coaches and culture and those are what really influenced my decision.”