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Early Look at Some of the First NIL Deals

Name, Image and Likeness was officially introduced into collegiate athletics on July 1 and the landscape of college sports changed forever. The preparation by some players was evident, as they wasted no time announcing new partnerships. Several athletes – such as University of Miami quarterback D’Eriq King and the Cainder sisters from Fresno State women’s basketball – were posting their new NIL deals as soon as the clock struck midnight.

So what have we learned after one week of collegiate athlete sponsorships and deals? Admittedly, not as much as we’d hoped. Congress has passed the responsibility of regulating the NIL market to the NCAA, which has clearly proven to have no interest in making any decisions regarding NIL rules over the past five years. The NCAA expects the conferences to manage these unprecedented deals, but the conferences are even less qualified to be in charge of this program. Since none of the leadership organizations within athletics are willing to accept the responsibility, it falls on the schools to manage their student-athletes based on what their conferences and state legislature allow.

This may prove to be even more difficult than originally expected, as the deals are less transparent than some people in the industry expected them to be. Most of the NIL deals that have been announced fail to share the contractual details of what a player is signing up for. As with any contract, the fine print is important to note to understand the money that is being paid and what the expectations are of the player. A student-athlete may sign a deal with a large monetary value attached to it, but may lose out on more money if they agreed to exclusively market with that company. Additionally, they may run into contractual issues if they sign on for appearances or requirements that they won’t be capable of committing to during their season.

With that said, there have been some interesting developments for student-athletes across the country now that they are allowed to take advantage of new opportunities. Here are some of the most intriguing deals that have been inked across the country:

Will Ulmer, Marshall football

Ulmer is an offensive lineman for Marshall, but he is also a talented musician. With complicated deals and sponsorships being signed across the country, Ulmer simply wanted to be able to book gigs and be paid for his talents at local music venues. Something as simple as this should have been allowed previously; the NIL issue may not have been a factor if the NCAA would have applied common sense approaches to situations like these in the past. Ulmer is a talented singer, songwriter and guitarist who looks to make it big in music after finishing his career in football.

D’Eriq King, Miami/McKenzie Milton, Florida State football

King has proven to be one of the most prepared NCAA athletes in the country regarding NIL, with several deals prepared and ready to go as the clock struck midnight on July 1. Arguably his most creative deal, King has teamed up with FSU’s new quarterback, McKenzie Milton, to create an NIL database named “Dreamfield.” Dreamfield is a platform that links college athletes from across the country with companies that are looking to market their business with student-athletes.

More than 100 college football players have created their accounts and 11 total sports are listed on their homepage as of now, showing their interest in providing a platform for all collegiate athletes. Dreamfield allows athletes to make that connection with businesses in a regulated space that will hopefully weed out some of the less reputable businesses that are sure to take advantage of athletes. Dreamfield could be a game-changer in the NIL market for all athletes, but it could also be a profitable venture for the pair of quarterbacks long after they hang up their cleats.

Hercy Miller, Tennessee State basketball

In one of the more confusing NIL agreements of the week, incoming freshman basketball player Hercy Miller agreed to terms with what he claims is an “American technology company” for a shocking $2 million. While Miller is the son of former rapper Master P, he was not a highly recruited player coming out of high school. A 3-star player according to Rivals and ESPN, Miller committed to Tennessee State with only six other reported offers.

Additionally, the company that he has agreed to terms with is relatively unknown. Web Apps America -- the company that sponsored a player who has yet to play a single minute of college basketball for $2 million -- has only 50 followers on its Facebook page and 38 followers on its Linkedin page. I’m not entirely sure where the funding for such an investment would come from, but it may be worth keeping up with this deal; it feels like there may be more coming from this deal as time goes on.

Dillan Gibbons, Florida State football

Gibbons’ story is one of the most heartwarming uses of NIL to this point. A Florida native, he transferred to Florida State this offseason after completing his degree at Notre Dame. His current team and his former team are set to meet in Week 1 of this season, and there is someone special he wants to be in the stands when he suits up.

Timothy Donovan is a Notre Dame superfan who befriended Gibbons after his first game with the Irish. Donovan is wheelchair-bound, diagnosed with a condition called VACTERL from birth and later diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a nerve condition that affects the hands and feet. Donovan has fought through over 50 surgeries in his young life, making it difficult for him to attend Notre Dame games the past two years. His most recent surgery has greatly improved his quality of life and helped him get back to a level where he is able to attend games again.

Using his newfound platform to help others rather than benefit directly, Gibbons started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help Donovan and his family see his first start as a Seminole. Gibbons’ original goal for the fundraiser was $15,000 for travel and accommodations for the family, but the fundraiser was met with such support that it blew past that total and is currently over $46,000 as of July 12. All additional funds are being donated to the family to cover Donovan’s incredibly expensive medical costs.

Miami Hurricanes deal

One of the more hotly debated deals of the week, a local MMA gym owner and Miami booster has created a program that would pay all Miami football players $500 a month to endorse his gym with their social media accounts. It would be a $540,000 per year commitment if each player opts in. The deal is spearheading the owner’s efforts to rally the city of Miami around the football program. While the contractual requirements of the players has not been detailed, this sort of effort is the first of its kind and could be revolutionary. If the cities that support these athletic programs begin to create marketing programs specifically for a certain sport, the schools in major media markets could quickly separate themselves from the universities in smaller, more traditional college towns.

But again, this is where the question of exclusivity comes into play. This deal guarantees $6,000 a year for the lowest players on the Hurricanes’ roster, which is great. But a star player for Miami could presumably be in line to earn much more than that. Does this deal prevent players from doing other deals? This is a prime example of the uncharted waters of NIL.