The sudden emergence of name, image, and likeness (NIL) in college athletics has left schools with many unanswered questions and unpredictabilities due to how fast the process has moved along. 

NIL was pushed onto the scene before people were ready for it. People around the country were unhappy that the big business of college sports did not include student-athletes. This left a significant number of schools unprepared for what was coming their way with signing athletes and assisting them with deals to make money.

There are essentially two roads to take with NIL, one road being the local “mom and pop” businesses supporting an athlete to go to their store to sign autographs or support them in a certain way. The other is schools collecting money from boosters to ultimately pay athletes to come to play a certain sport at their university, and NIL has turned into the latter of the two.

Austin Price, who covers recruiting, is a color analyst for high school games across Tennessee, and hosts radio shows about all things college and high school, thinks that both roads are still viable. However, with the way things are trending, the second road is becoming the norm.

Price said, “Land of gray… we live in a world of gray.”

Price means that there is a lot of unknown in this new aspect of college sports and schools that were unprepared for NIL, have taken the “old-fashioned” approach of giving an athlete a blank check and asking what it would take for them to sign.

This leaves the question of how much money is there to go around because schools now have to balance competing to sign athletes for large amounts of money, putting money into facilities, and signing or extending coaches for more money than ever. The money collected to do all of this comes mostly from boosters, and there is a limited amount of money to come from them.

Other key factors include the transfer portal and team chemistry because some athletes that came in at the right time will most likely receive more NIL money than the older athletes that only make their money from the “mom and pop” local business deals. This could create a divide in the locker room amongst the players and also lead players to want to transfer to schools that offer them more money.

On top of that, if a player does not live up to certain expectations, sponsors may not want to renew a contract with a player or school based on performance, making the backdoor deals through NIL very dangerous for schools and their pre-existing agreements with sponsors who pay a lot of money.

Lots of the NIL deals may require athletes to sign memorabilia, social media promotions, trading card deals, appearances at events, and more. There are cases, however, where athletes sign to a school and are not required to do more than play a sport for their university, which was not the intended purpose of NIL.

Overall, NIL has impacted many areas of college athletics in a short amount of time but not much has been figured out besides what its intended purpose was not supposed to be. 

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