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UConn to allow student-athletes to sign endorsement deals starting July 12

In a whirlwind day, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, the NCAA and UConn Board of Trustees all approved various NIL policies to benefit student-athletes.

Via @azzi_35 on Twitter

On Wednesday, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill into law that will allow college athletes in the state to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). Earlier that same day, the UConn Board of Trustees voted unanimously to allow the school’s student-athletes to sign endorsement contracts and hire agents beginning on July 12, 2021.

The bill allows athletes at UConn or any other university within the state to earn money for endorsements, social media posts, sponsorships, appearances, and more. According to the Associated Press, Connecticut’s new law would take effect in September but it allows schools to act prior to that date, which is why UConn can begin on July 12.

Also on Wednesday, the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors approved an interim NIL policy, which will allow college athletes across the country to profit off their name, image, and likeness in accordance with state laws. NIL legislation passed by states will still take precedence and the NCAA simply removed its previous rules that didn’t allow student-athletes to make money off sponsorships and other sports-related business ventures.

Ultimately, the NCAA wants the federal government to create a uniform NIL policy, though nothing appears to be anywhere close to happening.

Connecticut lawmakers made this legislation a priority before the General Assembly’s session ended in order to ensure Connecticut would not have to rely on either the NCAA or Congress to institute NIL rights for student-athletes in the state.

If Connecticut did not act and a nationwide NIL policy failed to pass, it would have put UConn and the other schools in the state at a disadvantage on the recruiting trail. It will be worth keeping an eye on other states in the Big East and nationally that compete with UConn on the recruiting trail, to see if UConn will have an advantage on them. Now that the NCAA has passed a blanket change, it will be on schools or conferences to help fill the gap that states may have left.

“If the NCAA votes yes, then great, we’d have the same advantages as every other state,” UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma told the AP. “But if the NCAA votes no, and we don’t have a law on the books, then we’re at a huge disadvantage for any of the athletes that go to UConn.”

While the law is expected to benefit student-athletes at all levels, UConn’s star basketball players are perhaps best-positioned to cash in. Paige Bueckers owns one of the biggest social media brands of any college athlete with 829k followers on Instagram. Front Office Sports estimated her earning power could be worth $382k.

Similarly, incoming freshman Azzi Fudd, the top women’s basketball recruit in the country this year, launched an “Azzi 35” merchandise line that helps support the Purposeful Unconditional Service to Others Foundation. With NIL, Fudd will be allowed to pocket the revenue if she chooses.

For some of the lower-profile sports, there are other opportunities as well. A softball player could offer pitching lessons to high schoolers or a local field hockey camp could pay one of the Huskies’ players to make an appearance, for example. A UConn baseball player could be a spokesman for a local sporting goods store.

Student-athletes will have some restrictions. UConn’s new policy states players must provide the school with an endorsement contract before they can begin profiting from it and those deals cannot “conflict with the provisions of any agreement to which the University is a party”.

They are also forbidden from using any UConn branding or imagery in any NIL-related work and it can’t conflict with their academics or any team activities. Any UConn staffers, employees, students, or boosters are “prohibited from creating or facilitating endorsement contracts for a student-athlete or providing compensation themselves to a student-athlete” as well.

Even still, Wednesday was a landmark day for college athletes across the country and with both the State and University of Connecticut’s decisive action, UConn players are well-positioned to finally profit off their own name, image, and likeness. As they should be.