When Tampa’s EJ Gonzalez wanted to broker a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal for one of his Florida athletes, he had to cold-call brands and hope one was interested.
Not anymore, after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an effective repeal of the state’s name, image and likeness law Thursday.
“My next phone call isn’t going to be some random company,” said Gonzalez, Grady Sports Agency’s name, image and likeness director. “It’s going to be to the school: Can you give me the names of people who want to donate to NIL?”
Gonzalez can make that targeted call because DeSantis’ signature ended state restrictions on the involvement of schools and coaches. Under the old law — signed in 2020 — teams and employees couldn’t facilitate deals or cause name, image and likeness money to be steered to players. Athletic departments couldn’t connect brands and athletes. Now they can, although teams must still follow NCAA rules (which prohibit paying players directly or using name, image and likeness as recruiting or retention inducements).
“If its legal, it’s a changed game,” said Joshua Grady, a former football player at Florida and Vanderbilt with about 16 NIL clients through his agency.
It’s unclear how much the game will change in recruiting and whether state teams will be able to sign more high-end talent. But it is clear that some practical effects will show up immediately, starting with Gonzalez’s next phone call.
He can contact the Gators to see which of their supporters are interested in name, image and likeness but don’t want to donate to a third-party collective. Maybe the owner of a mom-and-pop shop wants to start a meaningful business relationship with a football player. Maybe someone is looking for an athlete to support a philanthropic cause.
Joe Hernandez sees even more opportunities. Under the old law, Hernandez — whose sports marketing firm, Just Win Management, represents Florida State stars Jordan Travis and Trey Benson — would only talk to a school’s compliance staff to make sure a deal didn’t break rules. Now, he can ask that school’s sponsorship office if any of its partners want to work with one of his athletes. Those brands will have more confidence in the deal because someone they know and trust (the school) is involved.
“That opens the door for corporate sponsors and different entities that weren’t so involved before,” Hernandez said.
Corey Staniscia expects more doors to open for third-party collectives, too, including the Fowler Ave Collective he chairs as his group and USF can work together in a “cleaner capacity.” USF could have in-game advertisements to promote the collective, which pools members’ contributions to pay players for things like meet-and-greets.
Another possibility: What if the Bulls agree to provide exclusive access at a spring practice to members of the collective?
“I can now give additional value to our members of the collective that I wasn’t able to tap into before,” Staniscia said.
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Players should also see additional value with more involvement from schools. Hernandez helped Travis launch T-shirts after marquee wins over Miami and LSU. How much will sales improve if the Seminoles can promote Travis’ online shop through their website or social media?
Grady brought up making bobblehead dolls of Desmond Watson, the massive UF defensive lineman and fan favorite from Armwood High. The new law would allow Florida to sell them in the bookstore at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, as USC did with Caleb Williams merchandise.
Fewer restrictions should make licensing easier, too. Player T-shirts are nice, Gonzalez said, but will be more appealing to fans if they can include team logos.
Name, image and likeness agent Jake O’Donnell praised another part of the law: increased education.
Schools must now offer athletes two workshops on financial literacy, life skills and entrepreneurship. O’Donnell — founder of Tampa’s EAMG Sports marketing company — envisions players being able to get more advice from coaches and administrators about deals, potentially preventing them from signing bad ones.
“I just think it’s going to create a lot less opportunity to fail,” O’Donnell said.
And, if state schools and their athletes capitalize on the new law, more opportunities to succeed, too.
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