Maryland athletic directors told an oversight committee Monday that they are offering opportunities for college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses.
The policies come after the General Assembly passed the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act this past legislative session, which expands athletes’ rights over the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL), among other college athletics reforms. The new NIL policies are not set to take effect until July 2023, allowing time for any policy changes that may come from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the federal government.
The law also created new health and safety requirements in Maryland athletic programs to prevent and treat serious injuries, a provision influenced by the death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair, who died of complications related to heat stroke after a 2018 practice.
“The very foundation from which the NCAA stands by — this word that we hear, ‘amateurism,’ all the time — is beginning to crack, which may result in a seismic shift in the model of intercollegiate athletics as I see it,” said Damon Evans, the director of athletics at the University of Maryland College Park, at a meeting of the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics and Student-Athlete Health and Welfare. The panel met for the first time on Monday and will monitor athletic program finances, student-athlete academics and student-athlete health and welfare.
“This is a potential sea change that could have enormous impact on the long-term financial stability of intercollegiate athletics,” Evans said. “Those institutions who have the ability to adjust and adapt to what we see as an inevitable change — they’ll be able to better position themselves for the future.”
The NCAA has long claimed that college sports are an amateur endeavor, an argument used for not paying student-athletes.
In February, UMD College Park, along with the athletic marketing platform Opendorse, launched a program called Momentum to help student-athletes develop content on their social media accounts and build their brand, Evans said.
The average deal at the University of Maryland for NIL is $745, Evans said. Over half of those deals are in cash and the others are gifts. However, two field hockey student athletes have gotten deals over $10,000, Evans said.
“Student-athletes need to develop content in order to be able to drive money for the use of their name, image and likeness and this company is able to do that,” Evans said.
And opportunities exist not only for “big-name, star student-athletes,” Evans said. “There’s a lot of money there for student-athletes who just know how to engage on social media,” he said.
Troy Dell, director of athletics at Frostburg State University, said that the topic of NIL has been “pretty quiet” at his campus, with only a half-dozen student-athletes having questions. Frostburg’s main focus is to educate student-athletes on what they can do with their name, image and likeness, but the university hasn’t reached a point where they need to help students with branding, he said.
Frostburg State has met with several vendors but does not see a need to partner with a private company yet, Dell continued.
Derek Carter, the director of athletics in Coppin State University, also said that no student athletes are currently benefiting from NIL, but the university has partnered with a company called “Influencer” to educate student athletes about their options. By spring, Carter said he expects more students to start making deals.
Evans floated the idea of having one platform that serves all of the university system’s 12 institutions, adding that he would like to share data that UMD College Park is getting from its program with other campuses.
“There may be something we could do as a package one day that could be useful to all institutions…how do we bring our resources together to have one entity working for all institutions?” he said.