Maryland student-athletes take advantage of NCAA rule change
Alyssa Poarch, entering her final football season at the University of Maryland, is busy planning her future as a professional football player — and not just honing her conditioning and skills on the field.
Poarch, a forward who made the All-Big Ten second team as a sophomore, is also busy finding the personal brand that will earn her money and recognition.
The Delaware native has already struck deals with a few companies and is set to strike a deal with a third. Under it, Poarch would be a mentor for a women’s soccer network and earn half of what players pay to be in the network.
“I want to play professionally, and what I’m doing right now is kind of like trial and error, seeing what I want my brand to be,” Poarch said.
Poarch is taking advantage of groundbreaking rules passed last year by the National Collegiate Athletic Association that allow student-athletes to profit from their own name, image and likeness, or NIL, a practice that was banned in the past.
She is among hundreds of Maryland student-athletes who aim to take advantage of the new rules, which went into effect July 1.
Damon Evans, athletic director and chief financial officer at the University of Maryland, called the NIL rules a “seismic shift” in college athletics.
UM dominates the NIL competition among colleges and universities in Maryland. Through March, student-athletes on 17 of the school’s 19 intercollegiate athletic teams had disclosed 232 deals, though Jason Yellin, UM’s associate athletic director, said many more deals had yet to be released. been disclosed.
The average compensation for a UM deal is $1,813, but some deals exceed $100,000, according to Yellin, who is also UM’s strategic communications manager.
The most common for-profit activity among Maryland student-athletes is posting on social media, at 36%, followed by signing autographs at events, at 18%.
The sport in which athletes have won the most awards, perhaps unsurprisingly, is football; women’s basketball is second.
Not all gainful activities are permitted under NIL rules. Athletes’ NIL activity cannot be directly based on their athletic performance or accomplishments – a student-athlete cannot be paid for scoring a game-winning touchdown – and must be valued fairly. Prohibited substances cannot be endorsed or sponsored. Students cannot earn money while engaged in official team activities, and schools cannot negotiate deals for their students.
Yet the rules leave the door wide open to a plethora of money-making activities that were previously off-limits to student-athletes.
The NCAA has long objected to students profiting from their athletic pursuits. But after several states passed NIL laws and after the Supreme Court ruled last year that the NCAA’s ban on making money for student-athletes violated antitrust laws, the NCAA relented. In June 2021, the association passed a rule change that opened the door to NIL activity.
Although many colleges and universities embraced the rule change, they approached the new opportunities in different ways.
The University of Maryland has partnered with Opendorse, a platform that helps college athletes build their personal brands. Opendorse serves as a liaison, giving the school the materials it needs to educate athletes on what they can and cannot do for profit and how to build a brand.
Among Maryland colleges and universities, the UM Terrapins have by far the most athletes taking advantage of the new NIL rules. But smaller schools have also been active.
At Towson University, which competes in the Colonial Athletic Association, a mid-major conference, 30 to 40 athletes participate in NIL activities, said Terry Porter, associate athletic director for compliance. Students from many sports participate, he added.
“Across the board, we have athletes in different sports with some kind of agreement,” Porter said.
Towson University is also helping its student-athletes navigate the NIL guidelines, offering training sessions on the new rules and what they mean.
“We have training sessions about once a month on different topics and students are encouraged to attend,” said Maggie Yarnell, Sport Compliance Specialist.
After decades of NCAA resistance to student-athletes making money from their name, image and likeness, many schools in Maryland and across the country are embracing the new rules.
“The point of all of this is that it creates opportunities for these athletes to make money the way they want,” UM’s Yellin said. “They can be entrepreneurs.”