New name, image and likeness era arrives at Ohio State. Here's how it will work starting July 1

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Carey Hoyt has spent the past year and a half as the point person for the Ohio State athletic department preparing for a seismic shift in college sports that will see athletes profiting off their celebrity.  

Over that period of time, the prospect of athlete compensation has been threatened by postponements from the NCAA in adopting permanent rules allowing players to make money from the use of their name, image and likeness.

“It's been a little bit of red light, green light,” said Hoyt, a senior associate athletic director.

Name, image, likenessOhio State right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere among first on team to reach endorsement deal

But the new era will indeed begin Thursday, with players given the freedom to be paid by third parties for endorsement deals, autograph signings and personal appearances, a handful of the opportunities that had previously been prohibited by the college sports' governing body as part of its longstanding amateurism policies.

As Ohio NIL order begins, NCAA policy coming as well

The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors approved an interim policy permitting athletes at schools such as Ohio State to receive NIL compensation without forfeiting their eligibility if the payments are consistent with standing state laws. Earlier this week, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order that allows college athletes in Ohio to receive income related to their NIL once the calendar turns to July.

Those in states without adopted legislation or executive action will follow policies put in place by their schools, an attempt to create some uniformity among the membership.

Hoyt said preparation at Ohio State for the rules changes intensified this past spring when a state law was first introduced and prompted the athletic department to partner with Opendorse, a digital marketing company.

While the department previously advised athletes about their social media use, it brought in Opendorse to provide additional education about personal branding as large online followings hold the potential for more lucrative sponsorships.  

“It’s going to be hugely advantageous that we made this decision and made it fairly quick once we felt sure it was going to be permissible for the kids to monetize,” Hoyt said. “I would say Opendorse is probably the game-changer for us, and they're going to play a huge role in everything we do moving forward.”

What will Ohio State compliance office require athletes to do?

As part of a department policy that is being drafted, Ohio State plans to require player endorsement deals to be disclosed through a web portal hosted by Opendorse, and they will be subject to a review from the school’s compliance office.

Athletic director Gene Smith and his staff have been detailed in their educations of athletes and the ways they can profit off their names, images and likenesses.

OSU cannot veto endorsements, but state law requires athletes to inform their schools of any agreements that are reached. A few types of businesses are restricted in Ohio, such as alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and gambling or those that are in conflict with a school’s contracts.

Through Opendorse’s platform, companies can also report whether the terms of an agreement are fulfilled.

If a player is scheduled to make an appearance at a car dealership, the completion would be tracked online, offering a level of transparency that Hoyt and other administrators considered to be important.

“Obviously with everything being so new and the possibility for potential allegations of pay for play, we want to be sure that athletes are performing the activity that they're getting paid to do,” Hoyt said.

Every eligible Ohio State athlete will receive an endorsement offer

Blake Lawrence, the chief executive officer for Opendorse, is bullish on the possibilities that await and predicts all registered varsity athletes at Ohio State will receive pitches this week.

“It’s up to them if they accept and fulfill it,” Lawrence said, “but every single student-athlete that is eligible will receive an endorsement offer on Thursday.”

College athletes are coveted by advertisers because of their reach among Gen Z.

For that reason and others, people believe some of the earliest opportunities in the NIL marketplace that come to fruition will be social media deals. Expect to see instances in which a Buckeyes football player promotes a product on Instagram or Twitter to a younger audience. The online deals also fit into time demands between classroom obligations and team activities.

“Student-athletes will engage right away because it is simple for them to do,” said Luke Fedlam, the founder of Anomaly Sports Group, a company that has partnered with Ohio State. “It's not like making an appearance where you have to go somewhere for a commercial shoot or a photo shoot and you have to give up a significant amount of time to promote brands and companies on social media.”

Fedlam added that autograph signings are also likely opportunities that fit into their schedules.

Larger-scale endorsements, along with private coaching and entrepreneurial ventures that require more time for development, might not emerge right away.

“We're going to start to see the breadth of name, image and likeness evolved more over time,” Fedlam added, “so that next summer, there will probably be a lot more examples of different and unique ways in which student-athletes are engaging.”

Ohio State athletes learning about branding, endorsements 

As part of Ohio State’s programming for NIL, Lawrence has been among the speakers who have addressed teams about branding and endorsement possibilities.

Giving presentations to a half-dozen teams last week, he said he came away impressed by the knowledge of athletes, especially the football players. The questions were specific. One player asked if there were ways to monetize on Twitch, a live-streaming platform.

“The football team is well aware of the power of building their individual brand in online audience,” Lawrence said. “So they were ready to jump into, 'How does this work? What do we need to know?' And that's exciting.”

It remains to be seen how many Ohio State athletes will dive into the marketplace Thursday.

Neither athletic director Gene Smith nor Hoyt ballparked a percentage that will pursue possibilities this week.

Hoyt expects it will evolve in the months ahead and as the next academic year begins in the fall when more athletes return to campus.

“As a whole, I don't have a sense of all of our athletes think this is a really big deal and everybody's going to spend a lot of time positioning themselves,” Hoyt said. “I think it'll take some time for people to understand what their opportunities are.”

Added Smith, "I think there'll be some that will be immediately July 1 when it's in effect and there'll be those that will linger on the way."

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman