FARGO — The open-for-business sign was unveiled at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday for college student-athletes, the result of the NCAA passing legislation allowing for them to profit off of their name, image or likeness. At North Dakota State, receiver Phoenix Sproles wasn’t wasting any time.
He put it out on Twitter this week that he was all ears.
“Who wants to do business?” Sproles said in a tweet. “Let me help advertise your company!”
He touted his 21,000 followers on Instagram, 165,000 followers on TikTok and 3,000 followers on Twitter.
Welcome to the new world of athletes having more of a say in how they go about their financial well being. Where it’s going to go from here is hard to say; NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen said Thursday it’s too early to tell, especially for a mid-major Division I program that plays FCS football.
“But I think if there is an FCS program or athletic program where student-athletes might have an opportunity to benefit,” he said, “I think NDSU is one of them given our community, fan base and their investment in our programs.”
NDSU had been anticipating this day for about a year by working on guidelines for its athletes and coaches to follow. The school signed a contract on Wednesday with INFLCR, a software company that allows NDSU to track what its athletes will be doing with name, image, likeness.
It’s a communication platform for the administration. Athletes will be required to go into INFLCR and document what company or entity they plan on working for and whether the benefit is financial or a gift in kind. It’s the job of Colleen Heimstead, the NDSU senior associate athletic director who handles compliance, to monitor that activity.
On Wednesday, NDSU also sent the first edition of its policy on name, image, likeness to athletes and coaches. Among the business opportunities the student-athletes will be allowed to profit from are social media content, sale of memorabilia purchased by the student-athlete, private lessons, camps and clinics, endorsements, modeling non-institutional athletics and non-athletics apparel and personal appearances at local businesses.
“It’s just giving some framework,” Larsen said. “I’m sure that will probably continue to evolve and as it does we’ll update our student-athletes and our coaches as to what those changes are.”
Full disclosure of all business activity is required in the NDSU policy and includes the following five questions: What is the activity? Who is the activity with? How much is being paid for the activity? When is the activity? Where is the activity?
The student-athlete must receive approval from the school before proceeding, according to the policy. Compensation from any name, image, likeness business deal will not affect the athlete’s grant-in-aid or eligibility.
Prohibited activities include selling items provided by the school until after his or her eligibility has expired. The use of institutional marks and logos is prohibited and athletes are not allowed to promote activities that involve tobacco, alcohol, banned athletic substances, illegal substances or sports wagering.
The NDSU policy doesn’t stop there, meaning it may not be as simple as showing up at a commercial shoot and talking for 30 seconds. The school says athletes will be allowed a professional service provider, also known as agents, but prohibit the agent from marketing the athlete for a professional sport. Indiana University, for instance, is encouraging the use of an agent but the agent must be registered to do business in the state of Indiana and with the IU compliance office.
The door is open for Bison athletes. It remains to be seen how much they’ll be able to cash in.
"I think it’s too early to tell whether this is going to be this big, huge, lucrative thing," Larsen said, "or once things settle and normalize will it be opportunities for a few kids or not. I think a lot of early things will be social media, a lot of our student-athletes are social media influencers so there’s an opportunity right off the bat for some of them to generate some revenue from that."