University of Minnesota and Student Athletes Enter Wild West of ‘NIL’ Age Without State Legislation to Guide Them

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE

Finally, the country is starting to see the stupidity of “amateurism” in college athletics. Football and basketball players in power-5 conferences across the United States have made billions upon billions of dollars for their athletic departments over the decades. In return, they’ve been paid nothing but free school, food and board from their universities (publicly).

Not only have schools refused to pay these money-making “amateur” athletes, but they’ve outlawed them from benefiting financially off of their own name, image and likeness (NIL) too. While major universities across the country have been collecting fat stacks of cash and building entire campuses off of unpaid football players, those same athletes haven’t been able to sign autographs, do car commercials or even eat a free quarter pounder from McDonalds without being damned by the NCAA for life.

But that’s all set to change at midnight, July 1. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled (in a 9-0 vote) that it’s illegal and unconstitutional for the NCAA to ban student athletes from making money off of their own NIL. If someone wants to pay a student athlete for an endorsement, the NCAA can’t punish them for it.




Impotent NCAA leaves NIL guidelines up to individual schools and states

We’re walking into the wild wild west of the NIL age tomorrow. In most states, Minnesota included, there are no laws surrounding NIL. The NCAA was expected to hand down nation-wide rules for schools and student athletes to follow, starting July 1. In fact, Mark Emmert and Co had been working on a plan for the last two years on how it would all unfold (according to Dan Murphy – ESPN).

But when shit started hitting the fan over the last few weeks, the NCAA came to a realization. The U.S. court system wasn’t going to allow them any wiggle room on the NIL rollout. The time for change was now, which meant the NCAA couldn’t police the rollout without violating anti-trust laws. So that’s when Mark Emmert gave up on handing down over-arching NCAA guidelines or rules surrounding NIL by July 1, instead telling schools that they were on their own if their individual state didn’t have legislation in place.

Does state legislation make a difference?

Some states have prepped for and passed legislation addressing the historic changes for student athletes and their NIL rights. The others, about 36 states in total, currently have no guidelines for student athletes surrounding name, image and likeness. Minnesota is among those 36(ish) states without NIL legislation but that might not be a bad thing for the Gophers or other universities in the same boat.




States without legislation (like Minnesota)

States without NIL legislation will not be hampered in any way tomorrow. Not having state guidelines in place just means more responsibility on individual universities to create their own rules addressing NIL. Any future disputes by players, surrounding the rules or guidelines setup by schools, could prove more difficult to navigate, however.

I’m sure the University and Mark Coyle have confronted NIL from every angle with their student athletes. This morning, I reached out to the Minnesota Gophers athletic department for any guidelines or rules they’ve handed down. I haven’t heard back yet but they didn’t have much time to respond before I posted this blog.

Around the country, you can see things other schools are doing to provide guidelines, rules and opportunities for student athletes. Remember, some schools have state guidance to fall back on and some don’t. The state of Alabama has passed laws addressing NIL and the University released a memo clarifying things for their athletes.

Here are some of them:

  • It is not permissible for compensation to be provided in exchange for athletic performance or attendance at The University of Alabama.
  • Compensation can come in the form of money, goods or services.
  • Use of any registered marks, logos, verbiage or designs owned and protected by The University of Alabama is not permitted unless receiving prior written permission.
  • Student-athletes are permitted to obtain professional representation to assist with securing opportunities for compensation. Representation must be for name, image, likeness only and not for future professional contract negotiations.

Many schools are also developing platforms, classes and software that can help their athletes operate, organize and maximize the profitability of their new personal brands. According to ESPN, USC has created something they hope will be a one stop shop for athletes and their money-making brand. I’d imagine they aren’t the only ones forward thinking like this.


USC, for example, built its own in-house creative lab called BLVD Studios that will educate the student-athletes on branding, provide a full-service platform to track content with metrics and help with brand management and narrative. The studio will help create content for their student-athletes that will include things such as logos, photos, videos and podcasts.

Tom VanHaaren – ESPN

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan