It’s been several weeks since college athletes were legally granted the opportunity to earn compensation from endorsements as a result of the NIL ruling adopted earlier this month.
Several athletes, including some associated with HBCUs, were among the first to sign endorsement contracts with businesses and companies mere minutes and hours after it all became official.
While the landscape of amateurism is now altered for the foreseeable future for individual athletes and schools across the country, this new era shifts the way in which athletes are valued.
Despite the immediate impact of the NIL ruling being largely unknown, is it possible that Black colleges could reap the benefits in terms of more recruits, exposure, or even additional revenue?
The answer to that is a complex one.
The athletes obviously can position themselves to make off well financially from whatever deals are brokered. But for schools, the residual windfall might mean something — or not — depending on where institutions are within the NCAA hierarchy.
“NIL is really pointed toward the student-athlete,” said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland. “I’m not sure whether this will give the conference any more exposure.”
The SWAC, more than any other non-Power Five conference, is in a good place to be extremely visible with recent conference expansion along with an ESPN broadcast deal coming off a strong spring 2021 football season.
The heightened interest in Black college sports nationally could translate into athletes being able to cash in.
Branding matters for schools. The name on the marquee is just as important as the athletes themselves.
Dustin A. Maguire, an ex-college athlete turned attorney, is working with current athletes as they attempt to navigate a world that previously had not been opened to them before.
He sees NIL opportunities as a potential two-fold asset for both athletes and schools.
“I sure hope so,” said Maguire about schools increasing their profiles by companies or businesses endorsing athletes. “If the FCS schools are trying to compete with bigger state schools, NIL is the door.”
It’s clear, for now, that athletes associated with larger schools are commanding a significant chunk of the endorsement bonanza on the strength of school identity.
But that doesn’t mean smaller schools or athletes will be shut out, either.
“I really do feel like there’s going to be a place in some of these smaller markets where grassroots kind of growth for businesses makes a lot of sense for some of these athletes and to partner with them,” said 247 Sports recruiting analyst Chris Hummer. “I see no reason why local restaurants local barbershops local bars, wouldn’t want to work with athletes that have some level of grassroots sway within their community.”
As far as recruiting ramifications are concerned, it’s too early to measure since NIL was just birthed, though certain HBCUs — because of their history and whose associated with them — can stand to profit, said Hummer.
“I think we’ve seen that early with schools like Jackson State, particularly with Deion Sanders, have a significant amount to do with that,” he said. “And some of the HBCUs are some of the early recipients of these deals. And I think that is gonna probably continue because they’re (sponsors) potentially tapping into a marketplace that other people can’t reach.”
Jackson State could become a major player in the NIL and recruiting game due to Sanders’ connection to the university — a star-power advantage not afforded to other Black colleges.
“(JSU) is a cool brand right now. I think the ability to play for Jackson State, the ability to play with Deion Sanders, is considered a cool thing to do now,” said Hummer. “It’s what kids want to do in a lot of cases to kind of represent themselves and also put themselves in a position to be in front of a national audience.”
Alabama A&M head coach Connell Maynor, though doesn’t quite believe that the NIL ruling will ultimately lead to HBCUs drawing any closer to leveling the playing field with larger schools.
“It will do the opposite,” said Maynor. “All the top players can probably make more money at Clemson, Alabama, Auburn or Oregon than they can at Alabama A&M. It’s going to benefit the big-time players, the difference makers.”