My face, my money- how NIL deals could affect the future of California community college athletics

NIL Deal photo for Web
Student athletes can now be paid to market their name based on their popularity in their sport. Photo by Nicholas Wire / el Don

On Jan. 1, 2023, the California Senate became the first state to allow students of any college level to receive NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) deals in Senate Bill 206, which includes community colleges.

For the past 20 years, there was a huge divisive debate between the NCAA and its athletes over whether NCAA athletes should be paid.

Student-athletes argued that the amount of money that they brought in from ticket sales and TV deals for their schools should be distributed among the athletes. The NCAA argued that students receiving an education was enough compensation. 

There have been many lawsuits over this dispute. However the Supreme Court case

NCAA v. Alston in 2021 finally allowed a compromise with Division I, II, and III student-athletes receiving permission to collect money through NIL deals.

A NIL deal entails a person allowing themselves to be used in brand advertising or endorsements. Some of the biggest earners from these NIL deals include Bronny James of USC ($6.1 million), Shedeur Sanders of Colorado ($4.1 million), and Livvy Dunne of LSU ($3.1 million).

Students at smaller colleges might not be getting multi-million dollar deals, but they can still make enough to thrive by being paid up to a couple of hundred dollars for a social media endorsement. NIL deals aren’t exclusive to huge billboards or nationally broadcasted TV commercials but can be as simple as an Instagram post.

“There are students who turn themselves into an entrepreneur so they can make money off of social media,” said Santa Ana College Athletic Director Mary Hegarty. “So if you could monetize your social media, that’s a creative way to make a living, and thinking in those terms can be good for student-athletes.”

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In the California Community College Athletic Association, there are 110 schools and  24,000 student athletes according to the CCCAA website. They’re now able to receive money from sponsors and brand deals, opening a whole new door to earning a living.

“Now that NILs are coming to Community College, it is going to help a lot of people out that are struggling financially that maybe didn’t have the funds to play before,” said Dons’ kicker Anthony Solorza, in favor of the State Senate’s approval.

Members of college sports media have questioned if NIL deals will turn into the new largest recruiting tool for transferring students, and opponents of these bills have concerns about the lack of limits and regulations regarding the size of deals.

Currently, there are no SAC student-athletes endorsed with an NIL deal. However, SAC is not opposed to future deals.

“We want to present this and let students know that that opportunity is out there for them,” said Hegarty.

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