When the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) suspended their policies against student athletes monetizing their name, image and likeness (NIL) on July 1, 2021, it made ripples across the collegiate athletics landscape. At Valpo, several athletes seized this new opportunity.

In the nine months the policies have been in effect, a total of 91 NIL forms were filed by 60 different Valpo athletes. However, only two received a profit from their deals. Senior Robert Washington and fifth-year senior Doug Haugh, both running backs on the football team, each earned five hundred dollars for an Arby’s promotional program.

The majority of the deals are simply in exchange for free goods or services like the sponsorships that senior outfielder Jeremy Drudge secured. 

“When the NIL news broke, I was injured,” Drudge said. “So I had the time to take the initiative and reached out to a few companies.”

Drudge currently works with Bubblr, a sparkling water product, and Jaeger Sports, a sports conditioning company. Each sends him shipments of their products in exchange for posts on his social media. As part of his partnership with Jaeger Sports, Drudge also used his platform to raise money for Athletes Against Anxiety and Depression.

One of the issues that prevents larger deals is because it is the athlete’s responsibility to navigate the business agreement amidst their busy schedule. The school’s athletic department is not allowed to be involved.

“If a business came to me and said they wanted a basketball player to do a promotion, I can’t arrange that,” Athletic Director Mark LaBarbera said. “They have to reach out to the player themselves.”

However the school can provide the resources to educate students about how to make those deals themselves.

“We have an online platform called INFLCR that we purchased to help our students with NIL,” LaBarbera said. “There’s a library where they can learn about things like tax implications and contracts.”

LaBarbera hopes to expand NIL education to include assistance from the College of Business and the Communications and Visual Arts Department. Executive Associate Athletic Director Sarah Pruess also works with the new part of the NIL industry as she oversees NCAA compliance.

“I think we are finding out about how it is affecting the landscape overall,” Pruess said. “It hasn’t trickled down to us just yet, but that does not mean that it isn’t going to.”

Pruess has had to adapt and take new measures to make sure all activities are documented and conducted properly.

“It’s a learning experience for everyone,” Pruess said. “We need to educate our students, coaches and staff, and also monitor it and make sure it's done correctly.”

Although the future of NIL is a big unknown, LaBarbera expects that the area will evolve and require more attention from athletic departments.

“I think any of the Missouri Valley Conference schools are going to be hard pressed to have a full time staff member just assigned to NIL,” LaBarbera said. “It’s something that we are going to have to figure out going forward.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.