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Although the NCAA first allowed athletes to profit from NIL in July of 2021, the 2022 calendar year was the first full year with Name, Image and Likeness in place. While the new reality certainly created a myriad of issues that could have been foreseen, it has been an overwhelmingly positive addition to collegiate athletics.
A lot has changed in the last 18 months. Mostly, if not wholly, for the better.
The purposefully equivocal term “student-athlete” came into existence in the 1950s and implied that they are neither students playing sport, nor a sportsman at work. As athletes, they must reach the academic standards of their peers, but as students, they mustn’t be compensated for anything beyond cost of studies and livelihood.
College athletes were thus tangled in a vague web of NCAA bylaws that held them hostage in a business model that did not compensate its employees in salary, but profited from their product to the tune of a billion dollars in revenue. That continues to be the case.
However, with NIL, that glaring double standard gap is bridged— to some extent.
While athletes are not compensated in salary, they can profit. They own their brands, they own their names, they own their likenesses.
As a result of this long overdue change, the past 365 days have been even more insane than usual. With 2022 coming to a close, let’s take a look back at some of the best and worst NIL moments.
10 BEST NIL STORIES OF 2022
Turning a historic scandal into a modern marketing tool.
Southern Methodist University once received the most severe punishment in college football history. On February 25, 1987, the NCAA suspended SMU football for the entire 1987 season due to repeated rule violations.
35 years later, the Mustangs brought its past to the forefront. In today’s NIL era, Eric Dickerson would have made his money and got his car through legal channels. Why not use him to promote the opportunities in Dallas today?
Booty, Booty, Booty, Booty rockin’ everywhere.
Oklahoma quarterback General Booty’s legal name is General Booty. It isn’t a nickname. It isn’t a joke.
Where the former Allen, Texas high school signal-caller would not have been able to make money from his unique name in the past, he can through NIL. So he did.
Not only did Booty put out some of the best merch this year, the profits went to a great cause.
Making wishes come true one touchdown at a time.
One of the best NIL deals to date was signed by Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers. With each of his passing touchdowns in 2022, ‘Simmons Erosion Control’ donated $1,000 to the Make-A-Wish foundation in Mississippi.
Rogers threw 34 touchdowns in the late Mike Leach’s legendary Air Raid system, raising $34,000.
Big fella’s gotta eat!
At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, Nittany Lions specialist Gabe Nwosu is one of the biggest kickers in football. He is also one of the hungriest, probably. NIL allowed him to eat his heart out at one of the Mid-Atlantic’s best sandwich shops.
A very merry, debt-free Christmas.
Bloomington, Indiana-native Anthony Leal had a surprise for his sister on Christmas Day. Her college is paid for, on his dime, and her reaction will put a smile on the face of even the biggest NIL haters.
Would you like some NIL on your corn dog?
The State Fair of Texas is one of the Lone Star State’s oldest, biggest traditions. Hundreds of thousands of folks travel to Dallas to hop on a ferris wheel, shop local vendors, and eat. Lots and lots of eating.
As Texas and Oklahoma went to battle in the Red River
Shootout Showdown at the Cotton Bowl, Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson cashed-in at a legendary corn dog stand outside of the stadium.
Securing a future in the present.
Many college athletes profited from NIL in 2022 in form of cars, headphones, luggage bags, and cold hard cash. Some athletes, obviously, made more money than others.
In State College, Pennsylvania– one collective made history. It purchased permanent disability insurance for many top football players, which secured their financial futures in case of career-ending injury.
It takes a village.
Tennessee basketball star Zakai Zeigler and his family lost their Long Island home to a fire. Volunteers fans joined together to make sure that they not only had a place to live, but a place to live that allowed them to be at every one of Zakai’s home games.
A luxury of time, energy and focus.
College football is a full-time job, on top of the academic expectations of student-athletes.
Before NIL, Sam ‘Taki’ Taimani had to juggle his work in the classroom and work on the gridiron, while also working at Amazon and DoorDash to make enough money for rent and food. After NIL, he can focus his time and energy on being the best student and athlete that he can be.
Call it how it is.
Mike Leach tragically passed away at the age of 61 earlier this month. The Pirate was never afraid to speak his mind, and often offered the most unique perspectives on college football, life, and everything in between.
His approach to fixing the issues with NIL was no different. Although his solution raised concerns, Leach was willing to ask the hard questions. He was willing to say the things that nobody else was. He was one of one and his thoughtful, direct approach to one of college football’s most highly-debated topics was refreshing, even if it came with its own set of questions. Rest in peace, coach.
This does not even begin to scratch the surface of all of the good that NIL brought to college sports this year. CLICK HERE for more.
5 WORST NIL STORIES OF 2022
NIL was and is overwhelmingly positive, but it would be intentional neglect not to mention some of the negative. There is plenty of it, and these five moments were the lowest of low.
Standing on a soapbox.
Jimbo Fisher dominated headlines during the college football offseason. The Texas A&M head coach was very angry with the narrative surrounding his program and the amount of money in College Station.
To address his frustrations, Fisher stood on a soapbox. He pointed fingers at others while four fingers pointed back at him.
Is this really the way?
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson offered a solution to slow down NIL and the transfer portal. His proposal hurt players and restricted a lot of their freedom. College sports exist because of the athletes and athletes should always be put first.
Tamper here, tamper there, tamper everywhere.
While tampering was always part of college football and collegiate athletics as a whole, it is greater now than ever before. NIL has increased the amount of behind-the-scenes shenanigans and it takes a toll on smaller programs.
Don’t just talk about it, be about it.
Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi recently accused other programs of trying to poach North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. Again, tampering is very real.
However, Narduzzi did not name the programs. That’s bogus. If he is going to get on the radio and air his grievances, he should provide the receipts to back up his claims. Lame.
Seeking desires from a different perspective.
Increased athlete empowerment is one of the best things to come from NIL. However, there is a way to approach a financial situation without casting a negative shadow on a money ask.
Miami basketball’s Isaiah Wong went about it the wrong way. He issued a threat, rather than expressing a concern or frustration. While his claims and wants are valid, his method of asking was abrasive.