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PROVO — A new era of college athletics dawned Thursday with the NCAA bypassing its enforcement of name, image and likeness, or NIL, guidelines and allowing athletes to profit off that likeness through appearances, social media and similar activities.
And BYU will be prepared for it, the university says.
In a letter to athletes, coaches and staff Wednesday night, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe released the department's policy regarding enforcement of NIL behavior and guidelines. Among them are endorsement of companies that hold the same standards as the school's sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"This is terrific news for our student-athletes, and we are excited for them to be able to capitalize on their name, image and likeness," Holmoe said in a statement. "We're eager to assist our student-athletes as much as we can with the opportunities ahead, and we have policies and processes in place to help make sure they're staying compliant and not putting themselves in problematic situations."
Other BYU policies include:
- Compensation for NIL activities must be within fair market value.
- Student-athletes may not be compensated for athletic accomplishments, avoiding any "pay-for-play" potential.
- Student-athletes will be allowed to use BYU or athletic department-related branding and logos — including uniforms — but only after securing rights through a formal agreement among the parties. The university is not currently granting the use of logos in NIL activities, but will soon follow-up with additional information on how to secure such rights.
- Student-athletes may not enter into NIL agreements with companies, businesses, causes or products that do not conform to the BYU Honor Code and its standards. Examples of such prohibited areas include businesses and causes that promote the use of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, adult entertainment and coffee, among others.
- Student-athletes must comply with BYU Honor Code standards, including the university's dress and grooming standards, while engaging in NIL activities.
- The use of institutional facilities, including athletic department facilities, is prohibited at this time.
- All student-athletes must have NIL agreements reviewed by the athletics administration prior to engaging in the NIL activity. Disclosure forms are enclosed in this policy.
BYU also says it will be meeting individually with its athletes over the coming days and weeks to better address the policy, which is subject to future amendment. The department also recently launched the Built4Life program, which it says will serve as a "mechanism for educating student-athletes and business partners on compliant NIL integration," while also providing support in the form of financial literacy, tax law and contract law for its athletes' NIL purposes.
And while NIL legislation is a good step towards procuring an even playing field and increasing athletes' benefits in college to be on the same level as other students on campus, the more important aspect is education through long-lasting programs that Built4Life will provide, Holmoe added.
"We feel that it is our responsibility to help educate and train them. There's ways we can do that," Holmoe said Thursday morning on DJ&PK on 1280 AM. "I think a lot of these young people are in for some great learning experiences, which will come with some good experiences and some tough experiences. Right now, Built4Life is trying to accelerate programs that will help them deal with these opportunities to make money."
Holmoe said that some companies in the state have already approached BYU about partnering with its athletes. Among the founding partners for Built4Life, for example, are the Salt Lake Chamber and Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, which is headed by former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a BYU graduate and Orem resident.
Still, others will contact and work directly through the individual athletes. That's OK, Holmoe said, but there will come a learning curve for everyone in advancing these rights.
"The issue that is hard for us to deal with is — I love these kids, and we're with them a lot — but I know there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there that want to take advantage of them," he added. "That's why we built out a lot of things with NIL behind the scenes, to prepare them for these experiences they're going to have. Some of them are going to be great; some of them will be very bad."
The biggest name to come out of the university in the past decade or more, Jimmer Fredette, is on board with the changes. Imagine what the former BYU star could've marketed for himself as "Jimmermania" was sweeping the nation.
"It's definitely a great ruling; it needed to be done," Fredette told BYUtv Thursday morning. "College athletes needed to be paid at some point, somehow. And I think this is the best way to do it. They can make money on their name.
"If I had the opportunity to do that, it probably would've been pretty good for me. I had a lot of people that were trying to come to me, trying to make money off me in that time period and I wasn't able to capitalize off it. But now, the kids are. I think it's a great thing. ... It's just a little bit too late for me. But I think it's great now that athletes will be able to capitalize on it."
Scenarios would have to be in compliance with campus contracts already in place. For example, an athlete could sign an endorsement deal to promote a soft drink or beverage. But because BYU is contracted with Coca Cola, the athlete would have to fulfill their contract with a rival soft drink off campus and without the use of BYU logos, uniforms or facilities.
Coaches can also make team-specific policies about the use of athletes' time. But much of those policies will be specific to each program, and likely will come as new challenges arise under the new legislation.
"Those questions will be answered in short order, because people are going to challenge it," said Holmoe, whose side cannot broker deals with individual athletes. "That's OK. It's going to make us work overtime. Our brains will have to be on at all times.
"We're going to have to put away the things thought from the past, and start looking to the future."
The university's partnership with Opendorse was also established to help facilitate content-creation resources that will enhance branding through social media, including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and LinkedIn.
"Today is a most auspicious occasion. With the passage of interim NIL policies, our student-athletes now have the opportunity to maximize their earning potential in a variety of areas, from marketing deals to endorsements to monetizing their online presence," said Gary Veron, BYU associate athletic director for student-athlete experience, in a statement. "I am thrilled to support BYU student-athletes as they begin laying the groundwork of building their personal brands. Our Built4Life program is prime to help ensure that money earned through NIL deals becomes a tool for future financial success. The college athletic landscape will never be the same, and we are ready to embrace these exciting changes."
The change in NCAA policy was prompted by state legislatures in at least a half-dozen states, including giants California and Texas, passing NIL legislation through their state legislatures. Utah does not have such legislation on the books, but it could come later. The state could also wait for national guidelines, either through the NCAA, Congress or some other organization that will oversee this new era of NIL.
Holmoe estimates "at least a year" before such guidelines are passed, though. Until then, BYU won't be caught off guard.
"I think that this is a long time coming; there are aspects of NIL that are going to be great," Holmoe said. "But it's also one of those things where you send your children off to college, hoping for the best, but you know you might get some calls back that this isn't what they thought it was going to be.
"I think a lot of kids are going to learn that you have a name, image and likeness, and you have to make what you will of that."