As student-athletes kickstart their college experience, what once was an extracurricular activity becomes a for-profit opportunity.
Players now have the chance to make money off of what is known as “name, image and likeness” (NIL) deals. But Lehigh, as a mid-major Division I school, has not seen the consistent results with NIL deals that schools in power five conferences have.
According to Sports Illustrated, NIL first came into existence in June 2021 when the Supreme Court ruled the NCAA could no longer limit any education-related payments to students. This meant college athletes could now use their name, image and likeness to sign endorsement deals with companies.
These deals typically follow the structure of endorsements professional players have been experiencing for years: an athlete promotes a product on social media or another platform, and in exchange, the company compensates the athlete monetarily or through free products.
According to the Associated Press, an estimated $917 million was distributed in deals during the first year of NIL’s existence. In its second year, NIL experts from Opendorse — a NIL marketplace company — estimate that NIL spending will top $1 billion.
With all of this money spent, the average compensation for a Division I athlete from NIL deals is $3,438. However, these numbers are greatly inflated by multimillion dollar deals by well-known athletes from power five schools like Alabama Quarterback Bryce Young, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne.
In reality, the average Division I athlete makes far less on NIL than $3,438. The average value of a social media NIL transaction is $905 and the median is $50.
Sophomore wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel and sophomore basketball guard Tyler Whitney-Sidney’s NIL deals seem to be on the lower end of the spectrum.
Jamiel said his deals have not been monetary, as they have been limited to free merchandise in exchange for promoting MuscleTech and SoHoodie products on social media. However, he said he has not gone out of his way to obtain NIL deals.
“I haven’t actively pursued any deals as of yet,” Jamiel said. “I think if my following continues to grow, I’ll be more likely to reach out to some companies and have an opportunity to receive new deals in the future.”
Whitney-Sidney, on the other hand, has been able to obtain NIL deals that earn him money. He did not disclose the specific brands or compensation, but he said he has worked with clothing businesses and restaurants in the Boston area, where he is from.
While Jamiel and Whitney-Sidney have seen some success with NIL, they have been unable to close deals with local Bethlehem businesses, an experience shared by other athletes.
Junior quarterback Dante Perri has yet to find any NIL opportunities despite being Lehigh’s starting quarterback the past two seasons. He said he pins this on his lack of interaction with local businesses and sees it as a growth area for students and businesses in the future.
“I think it depends on local businesses wanting to support kids,” Perri said. “It’s a good opportunity for some of these companies to gain a little publicity but also kind of give back.”
Senior basketball player Evan Taylor has had little involvement when it comes to NIL. As his senior season concludes and he pursues a fifth year at another program, he said he expects more NIL opportunities to come his way.
He said he thinks achieving a Patriot League title would have helped him close these deals.
“If we were to win the Patriot League this year or go to the (NCAA) tournament, we’d probably get some more publicity because we are winning,” Taylor said. “It’ll bring more awareness and it’ll probably bring some companies, too.”