In the world of Name, Image, & Likeness it seems like new things happen every day, and just when you think it can’t get any crazier, it does.
In this week’s rundown I’m going to showcase a few of those recent happenings that seem a bit shell-shocking, while at the same time focusing on a few lessons we can learn from them, especially at the high school level.
Situation # 1:
Jaden Rashada & the Florida Gator Collective Fallout
In Volume 3 of Doc’s Dose of NIL, I provided examples and insight into a few High School NIL deals that have occurred throughout the country.
One of those discussed referenced Jaden Rashada, a top recruited Quarterback from Pittsburg, California, and the tumultuous turn of events regarding his $13.85 million dollar NIL deal with the Gator Collective (Florida), that was terminated two days after what would have been the initial payment of $500,000.
If you remember Jaden was initially committed to The University of Miami, but then flipped to Florida. After not showing up in January for early enrollment at UF and then requesting & being granted a release from his Gator Football commitment due to the NIL collective deal fallout, Jaden signed this past week with Arizona State.
The details of the Gator Collective contract were released publicly recently, and as reported by numerous websites, they were pretty astonishing.
The contract included:
$500,000 up front payment
$250,000 per month as a freshman
$291,666.66 per month as a sophomore
$375,000 per as a junior
$195,833.33 per month as a senior
As written within the contract, payments were contingent upon the fulfillment of the following obligations:
Residence in Gainesville, Florida
A minimum of one branded Twitter post per month
A minimum of one branded Instagram post per month
Up to 8 fan engagement events per year which could include:
(In-person appearances, social media engagements, video conferences or interviews - none to exceed 2 hours).
Autograph up to 15 pieces of merchandise per year
Now, while it seems the world was up in arms during his recruitment / commitment / no show debacle, let’s face it, there aren’t too many student-athletes that would pass up that much money that early in their lifetimes. So it’s hard to blame the kid, or his family.
If anything, you can blame the adults who put him in that situation, but that’s for another day.
But here’s where it gets dicey…
In the contract terms it stated that the Gator Collective can “in its sole and absolute discretion” terminate the agreement “without penalty or further obligation.”
As Mit Winter (@WinterSportsLaw), Attorney at Kennyhertz Perry LLC, and one of THE BEST in regards to NIL and Legal Education / Analysis said in an interview with the NIL Deal -
“I’d be surprised if it guaranteed Rashada $13 million in cash, And if it did, it sounds like that much money never existed.”
For most high school student-athletes, deals like this aren’t in their future cards.
But, it’s important to consider the impact of collectives, fandom, and the desire to produce winning college sports teams with top ranked players on recruitment can have on a young kid’s life, and not necessarily in a positive way.
If you’re entering into an NIL contract at any level, get some professional legal advice, and have a trained lawyer take a look to ensure what you’re signing is actually what you think you’re signing.
Especially as NIL takes root deeper into the High School space, and contracts are being offered by anyone, it’s imperative that student-athletes & families of all abilities at all NIL contract levels are doing their due diligence when it comes to understanding what their signing, and the impact of each line within those contracts.
The old adage of — “If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is,” definitely applies.
So make sure if you are considering something in the NIL space, get some professional legal eyes on it asap!
Situation # 2:
Alabama Football & Law School Admission?
I read a lot of articles about NIL. And I mean A LOT!
College, High School, everything I can get access to.
But when I read the recent interview with Nick Saban outlining some of the “NIL Requests” that he’s beginning to hear within the recruiting process, I was like…
“Come on, seriously?”
Maybe at this point I shouldn’t be so jaded in regards to what has now shifted from…
Here’s the offer ---> to ---> Here’s what we’re asking for.
And while I shouldn’t be surprised by much of anything, this one still got me.
As one of the featured speakers at the January Alabama Football Coaches Association Conference, Nick Saban described a few recent NIL “requests” that he’s received during the recruiting process.
The first one he described was from a 2023 defensive back prospect that requested $800,000 in NIL deal money in return for his commitment.
While that seems like a pretty gutsy move for any senior in high school to make when communicating with one of the top coaches in the country, let’s face it, it seems like it is becoming more of a common topic of conversation and package considerations during the recruitment process.
But, the second situation is the one that made my head hurt a little bit…
Saban stated that Alabama Football lost a player in the transfer portal who was requesting a sum of $500,000… AND get this..
“His girlfriend's acceptance into the University of Alabama’s School of Law to stay with the team”.
Goodness Gracious young man.
You might be in the running for Boyfriend of the year, but come on…
I swear the first thing that popped into my mind was the 1994 blockbuster hit movie - Blue Chips starring Nick Nolte, Shaquille O’Neal & Penny Hardaway.
It truly epitomizes some aspects of what this new normal of NIL at the elite level is turning out to be….
And it’s not that far off.
We have football players signing deals with farm equipment companies just like in the movie, except NIL deals weren't a thing and the tractor just “showed up” at the family’s house in the movie, ha.
(ps - if you haven’t seen it, go watch it…)
Lesson #1: If your focus on the next level is about how much NIL money you can make, sure, ask those questions.
But prepared for the answers, and for it to become public knowledge, and not necessarily great PR. Just like any interview, you have to know who you’re talking to, what the expectations are, and what you’re truly wanting out of this experience.
An Opportunity to develop and play professional sports.
or maybe all three, but in a different order.
Just not sure law school for your girlfriend should be on your list.
Although I am super interested if there was a school that figured that one out as they plucked the player from the Transfer portal. The article infers one, but, no basis behind it other than the school they transferred to had a law school.
Lesson #2: Realize that if you are an “elite” talent, and being recruited by top tier Division I institutions for specific sports where NIL deals seem to be abundant and continually developing & evolving, be prepared for conversations to occur.
Additionally, if you're a D2 or D3 recruit, please know NIL may be part of those conversations as well. Most universities now have an "education" provider, as well as resources to help you monetize during your time at their institution.
Ultimately, you want to make sure you’re on the same page with your parents with whom you have already discussed the impact in regards to your potential career, your short and long term goals, and the impact NIL may have in both a positive and negative way.
Just because NIL $$ is offered or prevalent, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for everyone in every situation. Maybe it doesn't matter as much to you as something else.
Case in point - As Pete Nakos (@Pete_Nakos96) from On3NIL reported - Brock Bowers, Tight End for the Georgia Bulldogs publicly came out stating he did not want any collective NIL deal money so that other UGA athletes could benefit from limited resources.
Maybe it’s because he wants to be on the best team, and he knows that since NIL is part of it, he cares more about the Team than making more money for himself.
Or maybe because there are two major types of deals currently in NIL...
Endorsement driven - which he has numerous opportunities within and an agent in Everett Sports Management
Collective-driven - which often place a large focus on recruitment and retention of student-athletes.
I don’t care what the reason is to be honest, but rather, I’m hopeful that he made the decision for a good one. Maybe I’m intrigued because in the world of continuous reporting of:
This kid asked for this.
This kid is leaving if he doesn’t get this.
Boosters / Collectives - you better up your support or we won’t be competitive
And maybe Brock sees all that, and cares more strategy and his team than racking up millions from every angle.
Or maybe he doesn't want to engage in NIL activity from a collective perspective.
Who knows, but, just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for every student-athlete.
Situation # 3:
T.A. Cunningham - The Portrait of HS NIL Exploitation
Craig Weston / https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-09-16/ta-cunningham-transfer-dilemma-might-be-tip-of-nil-exploitation
This one hurts to even describe, as it’s the underpinning of a lot of the initial fears that I heard from AD’s as NIL started to infiltrate the High School ranks.
“How long is it going to take for some adults to take advantage of a kid?
Promising him the world through NIL, and leaving him with nothing?”
That exact quote came from an AD out of North Carolina shortly before my move back to Ohio in 2021, and has resonated through similar voices over the past few years.
And while the wording has changed, many school administrators still have fears about not only the student-athletes being able to handle NIL and all that comes with it, but additionally, the parents / adults / guardians who may push this forward in ways that take advantage of the young individual.
I truly believe that High School Admins and Coaches want what's best for their student-athletes while wanting to protect them like they are their own.
Like I often say in my presentations, the issues often surrounding NIL (and honestly youth sports in general) aren’t necessarily stemming from the kids, but rather the Adults involved (on both sides).
So let’s make this long story as short as possible.
T.A. Cunningham, a 6’6, 265 pound four star defensive lineman from the class of 2024, left his Johns Creek High School and his home state of Georgia under some bad advice and the promise of “golden” NIL opportunities, and headed west to Los Alamitos High School in California. (This move also was his 3rd school in 3 years).
Lured by a well known youth coach and Marketing agency founder who helped set up a plan to move T.A. for NIL deals only to have them fall apart, as T.A.’s request to be eligible on the grounds of family hardship, which would fall under the lines of an eviction or immediate family member in dire need of financial assistance, was denied.
This decision ruled T.A. ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) based on their policy that -
“A student may not be eligible to participate at the varsity level if there is evidence the move was athletically motivated or the student enrolled in that school in whole or part for athletic reasons,”
And they concluded that T.A. -
“Does not meet the definition of a homeless student and/or has failed to establish that his change of schools was due to a hardship.”
Based upon an article written by the Los Angeles Times in 2022, T.A. ended up in California with his little brother, homeless and living with the president of Los Alamitos Pop Warner League, no NIL deals / $, and ineligible to play high school.
As The Athletic reported in their article, “T.A. Cunningham, 5 star prospect, clears eligibility issues and can now play in California”, he remained ineligible during an additional lawsuit as the CIF conducted an investigation into whether he violated a bylaw that prohibits “undue influence, pre-enrollment contact and athletically motivated transfers.”
At the end of this past September, T.A. was eventually cleared and gained approval to play for Los Alamitos and restart his high school football career.
There are a lot of good people in the world of NIL that are here to help, but, there are also as many bad ones who are unregulated, and racing to capitalize by taking advantage of high school student-athletes and their families.
The consideration that “NIL people are fighting with NIL people for top recruits” isn’t just a sentiment experienced in the college ranks anymore.
While we know NIL cannot be tied to enrollment at a specific institution, you have to be honest with yourself in regards to the fact that an opportunity for anything, not just NIL $$, at any school is an interesting proposition that most people will at least listen to.
The publicity around the opportunities of NIL deals, and those “speaking it into life” for recruits is something that high school student-athletes and their families need to be careful with.
Trusting the right people is paramount as this continues to be part of the New Normal, because exploitation and manipulation of student-athletes and their families is a very real thing… all in the name of “helping kids” (LA Times).
As bad as the story about TA is, I'm hopeful that his future will continue to get better.
Judging by his Pinned Tweet on his Twitter - (@_getlikealex), he seems to have quite a few offers to choose from.
Let’s just hope NIL opportunities don’t get him sideways as he heads into this next decision… but I’m sure with the schools he’s considered, it’s at least part of the discussion.
Here to help in any way possible!
Keep Being Awesome!
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Dr. Scott Grant, or “Doc G” as his students call him, is former high school teacher, coach, and athletic director turned college professor in educational leadership / social media / branding, and founded Triple Threat Leadership, LLC. (www.triplethreatleadership.com) & NIL-Education (www.nil-education.com).
Need resources for Personal Branding & Social Media Education? Check out Dr. Grant's "Branding of ME" course, utilized by over 10,000 students, and integrated into hundreds of school curriculums across the country.
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