Victor Taylor ’24 (He/Him), Sports Writer
As of July 2nd, 2021, college athletes in North Carolina gained the ability to profit on their name, image, and likeness (NIL), something that just a few years ago seemed impossible. Athletes in many states across the country are now able to sign with agents or other professional representation, and more importantly, partner with companies to receive compensation in many different ways, such as through free products or money. This article engages in a dialogue with Davidson student-athletes Evie Lake ‘24, Emory Lanier ‘24, and Bernard Turner ‘23 in order to gain further understanding about their personal experiences with NIL so far, as well as help understand on the administrative side how NIL has affected Davidson athletics.
Victor Taylor: How have you felt about NIL legislation for you and other college athletes?
Evie Lake: It gives us new opportunities in a place where there was a lot of fear for us before, in terms of finding ways to capitalize on our brand.
Bernard Turner: It is a great way for student-athletes across the country to use the platform they have for whatever cause or brand they believe or represent. Not only is it nice to benefit from our name and likeness, but it is good to get the experience to be able to manage school, athletics, and the professional world.
Emory Lanier: NIL legislation for college athletes is a great opportunity for athletes to benefit off the hard work they put in, as well as be exposed to marketing opportunities and building their brand.
VT: What company/companies have you partnered with so far?
EL: Yerbae and Barstool Sports.
BT: HOOD, a company specializing in making the most comfortable and luxurious hats you can find anywhere.
EL: VaynerSports, and Bojangles gave me the opportunity to do a sponsored post with them.
VT: What drew you towards this company?
EL: Other people on my team let me know about both of these opportunities and I decided to make the most of them.
BT: I was contacted by HOOD to collaborate with their team on making a hat that was unique to Davidson. I jumped at this opportunity because I love clothes and fashion and being able to create a hat would be a cool way to be creative and get an opportunity in that realm. Also, it gave me the chance to work with some Davidson alums, Max Nelson [‘99], founder of HOOD, Brian Brown [‘98] and my teammate Eli Turner [‘22]. They gave us free reign in creating the hats and were very excited to work with us through the entire process.
EL: They reached out to me and I felt like it was a good opportunity to get involved in an NIL deal and learn more about it.
VT: What compensation have you received?
EL: Free gear and product from Yerbae, and Barstool is in the process of sending me and other athletes free clothing.
BT: I receive compensation for every hat sold with HOOD.
EL: I received monetary compensation for my sponsored post and story.
Not only has NIL legislation been a wild new world for student-athletes, it has also caused coaches and athletic administrators to adjust quickly in order to ensure student-athletes are following the rules correctly, lest they be ruled ineligible.
The person most involved in this new frontier is Athletic Director Chris Clunie ‘06. When asked about how athletic administration is helping players navigate the landscape properly, Clunie said that “the focus is on both education and support, and that with the A-10’s help, the school has partnered with TeamAltemus and INFLCR to help do those two things.”
Even though Clunie is now happy to have NIL legislation available for student athletes, the former basketball player says that he “believes that the NCAA missed the window to provide a comprehensive and thoughtful structure that encompasses both state and federal frameworks,” and as a result, “we have a patchwork approach where certain states have NIL legislation and others, like North Carolina, currently have no NIL legislation, which then puts the onus on the institutions.” The rules about how exactly athletes and schools can make money and sign with professional representation are different between states, which means now all parties involved are scrambling to keep track of what is allowed and what is not.
One might argue that the wealth of opportunities that are available to only some athletes based on talent or social media following would cause division or tension within locker rooms. However, both Clunie and men’s basketball Associate Head Coach Matt McKillop ‘06 said that is not the case here at Davidson. Considering the reach college basketball has in the country, McKillop said that “other programs could face challenges with NIL this year, but not at Davidson,” and added that “players have to handle these opportunities with humility and gratitude, and our guys have done that excellently so far.”
Amongst other sports, Clunie says that “because of the breadth of the marketplace, all scholar-athletes can choose to engage or not to engage.”
So much of how NIL legislation will affect players and schools is still up in the air. Coach Matt McKillop views it as a net positive, but worries about whether bigger schools will use their brand as a recruiting tool to draw players and try to divide college basketball. On a more complete athletic level, Clunie sees this, along with the upcoming changes within the NCAA in terms of constitutional governance, conference realignments, and rule enforcements, as a “moment of incredible transformation, but whatever the future holds, the focus will continue to be on doing athletics right at Davidson.”
With that being said, it’s safe to say that student-athletes at Davidson are already in a great spot to make the most of these new potential chances to capitalize on their brand.