'Better late than never': Student-athletes able to cash in with start of NIL rules

New rules governing student-athletes ability to benefit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) went into effect Thursday, ushering in a new era of college sports.

"My initial reaction was better late than never. Like it took long enough. There's a lot of athletes that are past their playing careers now that could have taken advantage of this 15 years ago," said Taylor Gilland, a Chapel Hill native and former track and field athlete at the University of Virginia.

"For the kids, I think it's awesome. I think they will be able to get a ton of experience as being brand ambassadors of themselves, learning how to run themselves as a business. I think that is vital in this social media heavy world we live in," added Desmond Scott, a Durham native and former football star at Duke.

The new rules allow athletes to enter into paid endorsement deals, sell merchandise, work at camps, amongst other avenues. It also removes pressure to abide by previously strict eligibility requirements, where even the appearance of impropriety could jeopardize an athlete's eligibility.

"I recall an incident while I was in college. My name showed up on a party flier. My cousin throws parties in Durham, so why can't my name be on a party flier? And I remember I got a phone call from Compliance, and they're like 'look, do you know these guys? You need to take your name down instantly,'" said Scott, who was unaware his name was being used.

Gilland recalled a similar concern from a customer, who was a UNC basketball player at the time. The store had referenced the player in the name of a new product.

"He said 'thank you, this is awesome. But oh my God, you have to take that off the menu or call it something different, because if it has my name in it, all of a sudden the NCAA is going to be after me," said Gilland.

Both are now business owners in the Triangle; Gilland owns The Purple Bowl on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, while Scott owns Prime Athletic Training and Fitness Institute in Durham.

Gilland said while they have no imminent plans to do so, they're open-minded to the possibility of working with athletes.

"If we ever do start spending marketing dollars, I can't think of a better place than we can spend it than on these athletes who are such a great representation of our community," said Gilland.

Scott has already thought of ideas for potential partnerships.

"What we've tried to do is do a student ambassadorship when it comes to the different classes that we have," Scott said.

He believes the new rules could make athletes more careful about what they post on social media, saying it was a point of conversation when he was playing. While he's supportive of the financial possibilities the rules allow for, he noted the value of incorporating financial literacy courses to make sure the funds are protected, something he'd like to see start before stepping foot on-campus.

"As far as financial literacy is concerned, again whose teaching these kids these things? Not too many people. All they see is the glitz and the glamour, but not really the yellow brick road on how to get there. And the foundation is in the public school system. So if the NCAA can reach back and talk to public schools or figure that (part) out, I think that would be absolutely important for that to happen," said Scott.

Some states have specific NIL legislation, though North Carolina does not. State Senator Wiley Nickel, who represents Wake County, had previously co-sponsored a bill aimed at addressing this, but failed to gain traction. However, as other states have passed their bills and the NCAA has given the green light to move forward, Nickel explained there's been bipartisan support to create legislation.

"We need to put the guardrails on in North Carolina to make sure we have a good system that helps student-athletes," said Nickel.

Nickel expects a new bill relating to the NIL will be released in the next two to three weeks.

While athletes are able to financially capitalize from their name, image, and likeness there are still some restrictions. Athletes cannot be paid for no-show work, and payment cannot be based off an athlete remaining in school or hitting certain statistical benchmarks.

UNC Football's Twitter account highlighted the NIL Thursday, including its partnership with Carolina Chamber. The Carolina Chamber will hold a briefing with UCN Athletics in mid-July to review the NIL rules, in order to make sure student-athletes and businesses are in compliance.

To read Duke Athletics statement on the NIL, click here.

To read NC State's statement on the NIL, click here.
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