By Mark Nagi

Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) finally came to collegiate athletics back on July 1st.

Much to the chagrin of the NCAA, “student-athletes” will be able to capitalize on their publicity and be compensated through third-party endorsements without worrying that the NCAA would strip them of eligibility.

The NCAA fought against this for decades, spending who really knows how many tens of millions of dollars… just to keep those ”student-athletes” from being compensated above tuition, room and board and other minor, approved rewards.

If the NCAA had been willing to give in at least a little bit, we may not have gotten to this point for a few decades. Instead, get ready for the wild west.

Paying “student-athletes” under the table has been a part of collegiate athletics probably since the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) played Rutgers in the first college football game in 1869.

But now? Well, you have an MMA camp offering up to $6000 to every player on scholarship at Miami in exchange for endorsements. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is making money promoting Milo’s Sweet Tea. Arkansas wide receiver Trey Knox and his dog Blue are now involved with PetSmart. Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon got paid for signing autographs at a local fireworks store. Tennessee quarterback Harrison Bailey signed with BT8 Management for his NIL representation, so expect him to get paid sooner than later.

The men aren’t the only ones cleaning up. Fresno State women’s basketball playing twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder inked deals with Boost Mobile. Nebraska volleyball player Lexi Sun is selling branded sweatshirts through a volleyball apparel company named Ren.

Former Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw said, “Women are pretty good on social media, and now they can get paid for that. If you can find a way to make a million dollars for selling what you’ve got, do it.”

Hundreds of “student-athletes” are earning stacks of cash by playing video games with fans through a company called Yoke.

While football and basketball will get most of the attention, “student-athletes” from non-revenue sports will also get their opportunities, especially those with massive social media followings, like LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne.

NIL is the biggest change to ever happen in college athletics. There are those that say this is going to ruin it. I seriously doubt that massive amounts of fans will turn off their televisions or stop attending games because Josiah Jordan-James got $1000 for spending an hour a local car wash.  Remember, his coach Rick Barnes will make $5.2 million this upcoming season.

There are those that say this will simply lead to the rich getting richer. Maybe… but can that actually get worse? Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma have grabbed 20 of the 28 spots since the football playoff started in 2014. With NIL, you might see more of the 4- and 5-star athletes looking around for schools that will help them build their brand instead of just being another cog in the machinery.

As much as I love college football, it’s become unwatchable knowing that the same 4-6 teams will always be in the playoff. NIL has the potential to break that log jam and give more teams opportunities to complete for a national championship.

Look, change is scary. I get it. But all the big changes to collegiate athletics were met with pushback. The powers that be didn’t want a lot of games on television for fear of losing ticket sales. The powers that be didn’t want every NCAA tournament game televised, didn’t want women’s basketball to get promoted, didn’t want a playoff in college football… the list goes on and on.

All those changes happened, and college sports didn’t fall off a cliff. The stadiums are still big, the training facilities still shiny, the donations still funneling onto campus.

So, relax, grab a beverage of choice and get ready for SEC Media Days.

It’ll be football season before you know it.

Even if Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones earns some cheddar promoting ground cover company Metro Straw…