Athletes at the University of Kansas have had nearly two weeks to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness without it affecting their NCAA eligibility — an unprecedented change to college sports that has presented a number of challenges to states and universities due to the lack of a comprehensive federal policy.
As of July 1, NCAA interim rules say college athletes are allowed to earn an income from their public status — signing paid autographs, getting paid for sponsoring a business or product, etc. How exactly that’s regulated, though, is almost entirely up to individual universities.
In states with name, image, likeness laws on the books, it’s easier for a university to oversee how its athletes are utilizing the new rules. Schools such as the University of Missouri and University of Florida have released their NIL policies. Missouri passed a law but it hasn’t gone into effect yet; Florida’s law has.
But in states without such laws — like Kansas — each school has to set its own policy.
In Kansas, Wichita State University’s director of athletics gave local reporters a thorough breakdown of the school’s NIL policy on the day it took effect. And while Kansas State University doesn’t appear to have posted its full policy yet, the university in December entered a three-year partnership with Opendorse — a Nebraska-based company specializing in athlete endorsement deals — to help its athletes navigate the NIL process. Minnesota also has no law on the books yet, but the University of Minnesota is another example of a school that has released its NIL policy.
Entering into legal, above-board business deals is an entirely new endeavor for both college athletes and universities, and it remains to be seen how KU will handle the changing landscape. The university hasn’t publicly released an NIL policy yet, but multiple athletes have already announced sponsorship deals and retained agents to serve as their representatives in NIL agreements.
Basketball player Mitch Lightfoot, entering his sixth season with the Jayhawks, was the first KU athlete to announce a sponsorship deal when the new rules took effect on July 1, revealing a deal with 1-800-GOT-JUNK, a nationwide “junk removal” company with offices in Kansas City.
Lightfoot more recently announced a deal with JPA Roofing, based in North Kansas City.
Sophomore basketball player Jalen Wilson on Sunday announced he would be represented by Playmaker, a national sports media brand representative, in his own business interests.
The day the new NCAA rules took effect, The Lawrence Times filed a public records request for the university’s policy on athletes profiting from NIL deals. Last week, the university responded that no such records existed, and spokespeople for both the university and Kansas Athletics have not returned multiple inquiries from the Times seeking clarity on where KU’s NIL policy — if it exists — currently stands.
Mit Winter, a sports law attorney with Kansas City-based firm Kennyhertz Perry, previously told the Times that a school’s NIL policy will be critical in answering many unknowns within the new NCAA rules. For example:
- Will a school impose restrictions on the types of businesses or services an athlete can enter into an NIL deal with?
- Can athletes use school trademarks in connection with a deal?
- When can athletes enter into NIL deals?
- Can athletes use school facilities in creating promotional materials for their deals?
- Will athletes be charged to use licenses or trademarked university materials, as other businesses would?
- Do athletes have to disclose their deals to the school? If so, when and how often?
- Will schools have to disclose athlete NIL deals to the public?
- Could a high school athlete who is committed to a particular school start entering into NIL deals?
Kansas was unable to pass NIL legislation after a bill which was making its way through the legislative process was tied to different legislation that would have prohibited transgender women from playing on women’s sports teams, which was vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly.
Kelly was unable to sign an executive order outlining state policy on NIL for college athletes because public universities in the state are governed by the Kansas Board of Regents and she lacked the constitutional authority to issue an enforceable policy.
Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.