Evan Bland Omaha World Herald
The three-page document reached email boxes across the country early last week. For the first time in more than 10 months, the NCAA has officially been studying the most confusing subject in college sports.
The Name, Image, and Similarity (NIL) era has been a more black and white gray area since it came into effect in July 2021 with a largely cobbled and vague temporary policy as the only manifestation of standardization. What is permissible? What not? In many ways, the schools and supporters were finding out as they went along.
Within the walls of Nebraska’s compliance offices, employees did not view the new guidelines distributed by the Division I board as new at all but a reaffirmation of existing rules. This is a good thing for Archers because they continue to pursue competitive advantages without conflicting with the NCAA.
“There is nothing new in this document,” said Jamie Vaughn, Nebraska’s executive assistant athletic director for compliance. “It could have been published this past summer.”
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Vaughn spoke for an hour this week on the topic on NU’s in-house radio program, “Sports Nightly,” as part of an ongoing push to educate others about the ever-changing NIL landscape. This includes players, coaches and fans who want to participate.
groups too. If anything comes from recent NCAA guidelines, Vaughn said, it was a clear definition of groups — an umbrella term for groups of varying sizes from a donor base that help athletes at a particular school generate income from scratch — as reinforcers.
And the long-standing rule for boosters still applies: They may not communicate with potential student-athletes for the “recruitment purpose.”
“I think what became really annoying to most people was how this infiltrated the recruitment space,” Vaughn said. “It was supposed to be an opportunity for current athletes to make money from their image, finally. But we work in a very competitive environment so it has become a way to try to get an advantage in hiring.”
The guidelines are retroactive, with the NCAA having few employees suggest it may look closely at the most “egregious” potential violations from the past 10 months.
The headlines suggest there will be no shortage of cases to explore. Miami billionaire who announced a two-year, $800,000 deal to move men’s basketball. Former NFL quarterback and Eastern Michigan star Charlie Patch has offered $1 million for Caleb Williams to move to Eastern Michigan. A group of Texans pays Longhorn Offensive Mariners $50,000 apiece—mostly just for being offensive Mariners. Utah Energy Bar CEO Pays Tuition for BYU’s 30+ Seats.
Most schools and groups, including in Nebraska, expressed concern about the guidelines this week, said Braleigh Keeler, an opening officer and specialist at Neal. NIL deals are jobs, not pay-to-play agreements, and dozens of universities and congregations using the Opendorse platform have documented proof of performance from the start.
Every part of the process – from live viewing to push – is timestamped within the operating system, including text chats. Mummy athletes are among those who have been asked to provide proof of their work. Picture in an engagement sermon. Golf outing video.
“Collective and compliance offices are mostly working toward the same goal,” Keeler said. They want to support student athletes. They want to see their favorite players succeed and they want to make sure that it happens compliantly.”
When can a group start a dialogue with a potential transfer student or high school student? Vaughn said there is still a lot to explain. There is still a firm belief, for example, that a sponsor can recruit a potential client but not actively recruit it. The group can determine what a potential client can earn in school but cannot promise anything in return for a commitment.
“This is what I call risky behavior,” Vaughn said. “But there is a way to navigate it. What we try to do in Nebraska — and what we try to do in every aspect of the compliance space — is not put our coaches or other people in the department at a disadvantage. We don’t want to be at a disadvantage but we do. That we do things the right way. Integrity is part of the fabric of what we do in Nebraska. But you can get your toes in the line and still have integrity.”
It is in the best interest of schools to educate their reinforcers because NCAA guidelines state that schools are responsible for their behavior. Vaughn, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts, and others in the community were often to interview supporters for this cause.
Vaughn said Nebraska may soon have three groups, one that recently finished paperwork and another that is “in the process of establishing itself.” The most well-known is Athlete Branding and Marketing (ABM), which went live last August and reported in April that its 20-plus core members had raised nearly $3.5 million for “nil activities.” Over 90 Hulkers – most of them football and volleyball players – have made money through deals brokered by ABM. The company is also developing a financial support program for football practice.