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Report: BYU among targets of latest NCAA probe into new NIL legislation

Nick Greer, co-founder of Built Brands, left, and BYU football coach Kalani Sitake greet each other during a press conference at the BYU Student Athlete Building in Provo on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, where they discussed Built Brands’ name, image and likeness agreement with BYU.

Nick Greer, co-founder of Built Brands, left, and BYU football coach Kalani Sitake greet each other during a press conference at the BYU Student Athlete Building in Provo on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, where they discussed Built Brands’ name, image and likeness agreement with BYU. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

PROVO — Was BYU's groundbreaking name, image and likeness deal with Utah County-based protein bar company Built a pay-for-play scheme?

That's the question of a probe launched by the NCAA, Sportico reported Friday.

The probe is to whether BYU's deal with Built — which provides guaranteed compensation for football players in the value of a semester's tuition in exchange for the social media, marketing and advertising for the Utah County-based protein bar company — violated the association's interim rules regarding new personal branding and marketing rights for college athletes, according to Sportico, one of the top news outlets in the realm of sports business worldwide.

BYU has been in contact with the NCAA since the summer — when the deal was announced — through Friday afternoon, regarding any NIL deal signed by any athlete on campus, a spokesman from the university confirmed to KSL.com. That includes the Built Bar deal, which provides up to $6,000 for walk-on players and up to $1,000 for scholarship players, and a department-wide deal with any female athlete who wants it with Provo-based address verification service SmartyStreets.

"We have communicated with the NCAA concerning the Built Bar NIL arrangement," the university said in a statement. "They have informed us they do not have any additional questions at this time. We will continue to monitor and abide by the NCAA interim NIL policy."

At the head of BYU's program is Built 4 Life, the name, image and likeness effort that seeks to educate athletes to sign meaningful, impactful and legally sound compensation packages to capitalize on and monetize their personal brands.

The program is run by former BYU compliance officer Gary Veron, who worked as the Cougars' director of compliance before his promotion to associate athletic director of student-athlete experience. A 2008 graduate of BYU, Veron holds a Master's in Public Administration and law degrees from the University of Wyoming, and previously served as the chief compliance officer at Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles and as an associate athletic director for compliance and operations at BYU-Hawaii.

HBO reporter Jon Frankel with BYU booster and entrepreneur Nick Greer on campus in Provo for en episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
HBO reporter Jon Frankel with BYU booster and entrepreneur Nick Greer on campus in Provo for en episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. (Photo: Courtesy: HBO)

Sportico also reported that the NCAA is investigating Miami for a similar team-wide deal with Dan Lambert, a Hurricane alum and prominent booster, that enlisted Miami football players to promote his MMA training facility American Top Team. The owner offered football players $500 a month to advertise his gyms on social media.

But Lambert insisted to the Miami Herald that his deal in no way violated the NCAA's new policies around name, image and likeness, an area the association recently declined to prosecute under recent amateurism laws after a series of high-court decisions criticized various rules from the highest level of collegiate athletics in the United States.

"I would love to sue those scumbags," Lambert told the Herald. "I hired the pre-eminent attorney in the country on NIL (Darren Heitner) and he crossed every T, dotted every I and they still want to look into it. Maybe (the NCAA is) scared they're losing their power. They're all pieces of (expletive)."

BYU and Miami aren't the only university athletic departments that have allowed athletes to sign with NIL representation. In many cases, they aren't even the biggest ones.

The University of Utah has a team-wide name, image and likeness deal with CW Urban, a Salt Lake-area realtor that specializes in "unique real estate for Utah residents" priced from the mid-$400,000 mark. Like BYU, the U. has even promoted such a deal through the team's official channels and social media.

HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel recently featured top NIL brands across the country for an in-depth look at the changing landscape of college athletics, an assignment that included Fresno State women's basketball stars Haley and Hanna Cavinder and their immense social media following.

"It's thousands and thousands of athletes," said Dan Everett, a marketing agent who represents Georgia quarterback JT Daniels. "It's going to turn into a billion-dollar industry quickly."

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