BELTON, Texas- When the new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules from the NCAA and State of Texas became effective on July 1, McKenzie Cano’s first reaction was to pay it little attention.
Other UMHB athletes have expressed the same feeling when they first heard that college student-athletes now had the chance to profit off their name, image and likeness while competing in college.
Much of the talk about sponsorship opportunities surrounded notable Div. I athletes. And like the way television deals, championship events, and marketing had been done in the past, many at the small-college levels expected Div. I athletes to recieve the majority of the benefits from the new ruling.
But surprisingly, that is not what has happened.
Numerous small-college student-athletes from across the country have already inked deals with various platforms and businesses.
Cano, a 2021 graduate of Mason High School who will play for the UMHB women’s basketball team this coming season, announced Sunday that she had joined Next Level Edit, a photo and video service for athletes. Cano promotes the business, and for each person she recommends the company to who buys something, she earns a cut of the profit.
“I think that this will greatly impact being a college athlete,” Cano told True To The Cru. “Instead of worrying about finding a job that would fit your tight schedule, you can rely on some sponsorship or collaborations to gain a revenue. I think we will see a rise of people who were kind of reluctant to become a collegiate athlete start to accept offers and play a sport in college. For me, I was contemplating playing basketball in college because it is such a commitment and I would really need some sort of revenue to stay afloat in college, so now having the opportunity to earn money by being a student-athlete is game changing.
“My first reaction to hearing the new NIL rule was to just ignore it. I never really thought it would take off like it did, especially on the D2 and D3 levels. But, once I saw that there were people who wanted to work together with smaller college student-athletes, I was all for it.”
UMHB women’s golfer Sydney McConnell, the ASC Individual Champion as a freshman, publicly announced Friday that she was working to partner with Barstool Sports as one of the media outlet’s college athletes.
McConnell has updated her Twitter and Instagram bios to include “Barstool Athlete” at Barstool Sports’ request, though she told True To The Cru that she has not officially been announced as a Barstool Athlete at this time.
Men’s basketball star Josiah Johnson, who led Div. III in scoring this past season, is also working to secure a sponsorship, though he told True To The Cru that nothing is in place yet.
Three incoming football players, Kavion Williams, Chandler McGee and Emariyee Stewart, each put out the same message on Twitter Saturday evening, announcing their intentions to pursue sponsorship opportunities in the near future.
“I was surprised [when the NIL ruling was announced], and I think it will help college athletes who could use the money that may not be on a full scholarship, as well as athletes who have put in the work to have exposure,” McGee said.
“I think it’s going to have a positive impact on me being a college athlete,” Williams added. “I have 4 years to make a name for myself so those sponsors can start coming in.”
Stewart hinted to the motivation factor that the NIL opportunities may have, pushing players to set themselves apart with possible sponsorships under consideration.
“I feel it will impact myself, other players and programs to brand themselves more and work harder in all aspects to show that they’re the best athlete or program that you would want to sponsor,” Stewart, a defensive back from Forney, Texas, said.
Stewart told True To The Cru that he has already contacted two businesses, and McGee and Williams are each planning to reach out to a few possible sponsors.
And these are just the first of many athletes on campus who are working to take advantage of the new NIL ruling.
Last Thursday, the UMHB Athletics Department released information regarding the way UMHB athletes can pursue sponsorships and revenue deals.
“Before a student-athlete may engage in NIL activities, he/she must attend a financial literacy and life skills workshop at the beginning of their first and third academic years at UMHB,” the statement read. “The workshop must be five hours in duration and include information on financial aid, debt management, time management, budgeting and academic resources available to the student-athletes.”
Additionally, the compliance office is required to be contacted regarding all “NIL activities” before a contract is signed, though UMHB will not be involved in NIL transactions.
“UMHB and its staff will not be involved in arranging NIL transactions for student-athletes. UMHB will not provide contact information for student-athletes to various entities regarding NIL.”
The new NIL rules have offered college student-athletes unique opportunities, but at the core of college sports is a passion for the sport itself. That will never change.
Perhaps UMHB quarterback Kyle King said it best when referring to the NIL “news”.
“I just want to play ball.”