Former Student-Athletes on NIL
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
As discussions around NCAA name, image, and likeness (NIL) rapidly evolve across the country, we spoke with three former student-athletes about their opinions on NIL, how they imagine these changes would have affected their collegiate careers, and what they would want to know in order to responsibly maximize these developing opportunities if they were still competing today. Several common themes emerged in these interviews to summarize how former student-athletes feel about these NCAA policy changes.
Mikayla Shields was a rightside hitter for the University of South Carolina Volleyball team from 2016-2019. She was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award (2020), named an SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Postgraduate Scholarship Finalist (2020), AVCA Third Team All-American (2019), and All-SEC Volleyball First Team (2017-2019), among other awards.
Fletcher Magee played guard for the Wofford College Men’s Basketball team from 2015-2019. In March 2019, Magee set an NCAA Division I record for career 3-pointers made (509). He was named the 2019 SoCon Athlete of the Year, 2018 and 2019 SoCon Player of the Year, and 2019 Lou Henson Player of the Year.
Garrett Williams played tight end for Clemson University from 2015-2018. Williams was a part of four ACC Championship teams and won two National Championships with the Tigers. He was voted the team’s Most Dedicated Player in 2017 and 2018. A two-time ACC Honor Roll selection, Williams graduated from Clemson with a degree in Economics in December 2018.
It's about time
For these former student-athletes, advancements in name, image, and likeness opportunities for collegiate athletes are overdue. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Magee. Williams and Shields echoed this, saying that since universities and the media have greatly benefited from student-athlete NIL in the past, the opportunity for athletes to market themselves and personally monetize their NIL is a step in the right direction. Not only will these updates allow athletes to capitalize on their athletic status, but Shields noted it will “create a greater platform for us to speak up about things we believe in, products we make, and so on.”
One of the biggest NIL questions today is what role it can and will play in recruiting for the next generation of student-athletes. The former athletes interviewed here agreed that, had expanded NIL opportunities existed during their careers, it would not have influenced their decision to attend and play for their respective universities. Shields didn’t think that being able to use her NIL would have “changed my [recruitment] process in any way.” Magee committed to Wofford because “it was the perfect basketball fit,” and he felt it was the place he would be the most successful. Williams shared this sentiment. He chose Clemson because of his all-around love for the school, and NIL opportunities would not have changed where he saw himself fitting best.
Nevertheless, these athletes recognized the potential that NIL maximization could have on future recruits. Magee “could see it playing a role for a large percentage of kids recruited, especially the higher-level kids.” Shields also imagined that NIL’s impact on recruiting could primarily affect the bigger-name athletes and athletic programs. “I can see how wanting to say that you are from a big-name school might play a role in your decision, as that might help you market your [personal] brand.” Williams agreed that “more successful programs with a large following would gain a huge advantage because they could pitch the greater opportunity to make money off name, image, and likeness.”
It remains to be seen how the NCAA will regulate the role institutions can play in using NIL opportunities as a recruiting tool. While there are already myriad factors that go into a student-athlete’s college decision, NIL considerations will be added to that list for many of them.
With new rights come new responsibilities. A crucial component to student-athlete success within the new regulations will be education on how to maximize their NIL. If he were still a student-athlete, Magee described his desire to “soak up as much knowledge as I could. I’d want to figure out a way to market myself and maximize my image and popularity.” Williams agreed that he would have needed help learning how to market himself, especially as a role-player on his team. “In college football, the star players don’t need to market themselves, as the media and the school does that anyways. However, for the role player, learning how to market yourself could help you gain more opportunities to capitalize on the NIL rule.”
Furthermore, financial literacy training was a consensus necessity for these former athletes. Williams cited the steep learning curve that college freshman already have in school and sport, let alone learning to wisely monetize their personal brand. “Without support, that young athlete could be distracted by the NIL rules, and they could mismanage money that comes in from their NIL. Financial management would be an essential topic that the coaches or support staff should teach athletes as soon as they get to college.” Williams described being offered a few financial literacy seminars as a student-athlete, but these were few and far between. Similarly, Shields described any existing financial literacy seminars in collegiate athletics as being tailored for life after one’s playing career. With new NIL opportunities in place, she “would want to have resources to learn more about those areas. The tools would be immediately applicable.”
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Much remains to be seen as name, image, and likeness talks rapidly progress. For Fletcher Magee, Garrett Williams, and Mikayla Shields, the emerging student-athlete rights are a necessary step in the right direction. While it is still unclear what effect NIL advancements will have on recruiting in college athletics, with enhanced education and resources, student-athletes will be well-positioned to maximize their NIL.