On his first day as the University of Wisconsin's athletic director, Chris McIntosh's department and the student-athletes he leads entered a new world Thursday.
College athletes are allowed to make money for their name, image and likeness (NIL), a marked shift in policy from the NCAA that was prompted by athletes’ lobbying and state legislatures creating laws that challenged NCAA rules. As the NCAA waits for Congress to draft and pass a federal law governing NIL, the organization’s temporary solution is to leave NIL policy up to its member schools.
UW’s policy follows many of the guidelines that the NCAA and Power Five Conferences have requested in a possible federal law, but McIntosh knows there’s still a lot to be discovered in the NIL age.
“I feel good about where our policy has landed,” McIntosh said.
“I mean, it's a temporary policy. By the very nature of the fact that it's temporary, we assume our policy is going to evolve. We assume that for a number of different reasons. There will be the learnings that both us as an institution and our student-athletes will experience that should be applied to the policy in the future. So then it evolves with our knowledge of what's actually happening in the marketplace.”
UW athletes have already begun cashing in, with a number of Badgers sending out social media ads for GoPuff — a delivery service for groceries and other essentials — and quarterback Graham Mertz debuting a line of T-shirts with 500Level.
With the initial policy set, let’s break down what Badgers student-athletes can and can’t do, and how involved UW will be:
WHAT THEY CAN DO
Badgers athletes will be allowed to identify themselves as such in their NIL pursuits, something that gives them more branding power as they engage with third-party companies. Athletes and/or companies they’re working with also are allowed to procure a licensing agreement with the university to use UW logos, slogans and trademarks in their NIL activities.
Athletes can also hire a business agent or attorney to help them navigate the NIL space. Any contract between an athlete and an agent has to end when an athlete exhausts college eligibility, keeping any business between an athlete pursuing a professional career and marketing opportunities as a professional separate.
In sports like hockey or baseball, collegiate athletes have been able to seek advisors before turning pro, and McIntosh believes having representation in the NIL space could be beneficial.
“For as much opportunity exists for our student-athletes, there's as much risk,” McIntosh said.
“Our student athletes, they'll be able to enter into contractual relationships on a number of fronts. We’re supportive of that, but we’re also supportive of them seeking sound advice and counsel outside of the athletic department to ensure that those relationships that they enter into … are healthy ones for them.”
All NIL contracts or agreements between athletes and third parties must be disclosed to the university. Athletes will fill out a form and return it to the university, and McIntosh said the compliance office, the career and leadership team, and UW brand communications office will be primarily responsible for reviewing those disclosures.
Athletes are responsible for all tax implications of NIL activities and for any financial ramifications of those activities.
NIL payments have to be for work or services actually performed, so a company can’t pay an athlete for a no-show job, and payments have to be at fair market value. Determining what fair market value is can be tricky, but UW’s definition in the policy says fair market value “can be determined by the price on which other buyers and sellers have agreed for a similar right, good, service or property.”
WHAT THEY CAN’T DO
As expected, there are a fair number of companies with which Badgers athletes can’t enter an NIL agreement. Athletes can’t endorse tobacco, gambling or any other product banned by the NCAA.
Other prohibited categories include sponsorships deemed to:
- Negatively affect UW’s reputation
- Create an endorsement by UW of a company, product, political candidate or position
- Be obscene or contain profane material
- Demean persons on basis of sex, race, sexual orientation and other categories.
NIL partnerships with alcohol companies aren’t expressly prohibited in UW’s policy, but they would have to be reviewed by the Vice Chancellor of University Relations, the same person who can allow or deny alcohol companies sponsoring other university entities.
Athletes can’t participate in NIL pursuits during official team activities, which include games, practices, meetings and team appearances. They also can’t use university or athletic department facilities for NIL activities.
UW athletes also can’t endorse products that conflict with team contracts, so volleyball star Dana Rettke can’t sign a deal to wear Nike clothes because UW is an Under Armour school.
No NIL payments can be for athletic performance or for choosing a particular school to play for. Keeping NIL out of recruiting and preventing pay-for-play situations are key tenets of UW and the NCAA’s policies.
“Those are important issues for our current and future student-athletes to be well versed in, and the responsibility to educate them on that will fall to us,” McIntosh said.
Like other UW policies, athletes who don’t comply could face NCAA or UW penalties and a potential loss of scholarship.
One thing UW’s actions this summer — particularly agreeing to a contract with Opendorse to start a program called YouDub, which will help educate athletes about building a brand and using NIL to make money — and NIL policy make clear is that Badgers athletes will be educated on how to leverage their NIL, but they’re on their own to seek and make deals.
"I don't think it would be appropriate for us to be reviewing contracts between student-athletes and third parties, and then providing advice on those,” McIntosh said.
UW can’t arrange NIL payments for companies or give its athletes NIL payments directly. Scholarships are not NIL payments and won’t be revoked or reduced because an athlete signs NIL deals.
McIntosh acknowledges there will be a trail-and-error phase under this policy, and he said that the policy can be amended as the department deems fit.
But he also expressed concern that too much focus will be put on NIL possibilities and not earning a degree.
“I want to be sure that student-athletes are not harmed by the agreements that they enter into,” McIntosh said. “And the department, our institution, can provide only so much education around the marketplace, and a large part of the onus will fall on the student-athletes to avoid that.
“The lifetime value of (a UW) education will dwarf the opportunity that NIL presents. We need to keep things in perspective — that is the overarching priority. But that's not to say that we're not excited about this opportunity.”
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2022 football recruiting class
Myles Burkett became the Badgers’ first Class of 2022 recruit when he announced his decision in January.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Franklin is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals, and showed great mobility and arm strength in his junior season. He battled back from a knee injury as a sophomore to throw for 1,236 and 11 touchdowns and rush for 180 yards and a score in a pandemic-shortened season.
He’s the first in-state quarterback to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2011.
As his recruiting stock started to rise, the Badgers were able to secure a commitment from Fall Rivers’ Barrett Nelson in late June.
The offensive tackle was 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds after his junior season, and his quickness off the ball has made him a load on both the offensive and defensive lines. Nelson is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star on Rivals.
He had offers from Iowa State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and others before choosing UW.
Nelson’s father, Todd, was a Badgers offensive lineman in the late 1980s, and his brother, Jack, is currently an offensive lineman for UW.
After wowing UW coaches at a pair of camps, Monroe tight end JT Seagreaves accepted a scholarship offer in late June.
Seagreaves is an intriguing prospect for the Badgers — at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he has the physical frame to grow into an imposing tight end, and he possesses sprinter speeds. He’s averaged more than 21 yards per catch each of the past two seasons and was starting to gain more Power Five conference interested when he committed to UW.
Seagreaves is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star according to Rivals.
In multiple trips to UW’s campus in June, Cade Yacamelli was called “a football player” by UW coaches rather than locking him into a position. He earned a scholarship offer after an impressive camp workout and accepted it in late June.
The consensus three-star athlete was starting to earn more recruiting attention from Power Five schools when he accepted the Badgers’ offer. UW was the first Power Five offer for the 6-foot, 200-pounder. He’s played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school, but likely projects as a receiver or defensive back in college.
The Penn Trafford High School product has good quickness and change-of-direction that make him dangerous with the ball in his hands.
When A’Khoury Lyde accepted a UW scholarship offer in late June, he became the first player on the defensive side of the ball to commit in the 2022 class.
Lyde (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), a consensus three-star recruit, has strong ball skills and a willingness to hit that separates him from other cornerbacks.
The Wayne, New Jersey, native is the eighth-ranked player in his state, per Rivals.
The Badgers landed a tall, speedy receiver when Tommy McIntosh committed in late June.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 200 pounds. He uses his body to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and does well catching the ball away from his body. His Hudl page lists a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, and he has breakaway speed when he gets in the open field and can use his long strides.
A consensus three-star wide receiver chose the Badgers over offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
UW beefed up its defensive front by landing defensive tackle Curtis Neal.
Neal — a 6-foot-2, 310-pounder — had more than 25 scholarship offers, and reportedly was deciding between UW and Ohio State at the end of his recruiting process. Neal is a product of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, where the Badgers found receiver Devin Chandler in last year’s cycle.
Neal, with his size and strength, likely fits best as a nose tackle in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Jim Leonhard may have found another rangy, smart cornerback to add to his secondary in Avyonne Jones, who committed in to UW in late June.
Jones — who hails from Southlake, Texas — was on campus the weekend of June 18 for an official visit and had narrowed an extensive offer list to UW and California. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back was previously committed to Oklahoma State, but retracted that commitment in late May.
With good recovery speed and a good feel for getting his hands between a receiver’s at the point of the catch, the consensus three-star prospect is a good fit for what UW cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said he wants from his position group.
The Badgers landed the top-ranked player in Wisconsin for the sixth consecutive recruiting class when Joe Brunner committed the last week of June.
Brunner — a 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect from Milwaukee who attends Whitefish Bay High School — is a consensus four-star recruit and a top-10 offensive tackle in the nation.
He held at least 16 Power Five scholarship offers, including ones from a majority of the Big Ten Conference, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
VINNY ANTHONY II
Receiver Vinny Anthony II — a consensus three-star prospect from Louisville, Kentucky — joined UW's class on June 30.
Possessing a good burst of speed and long arms that extend his catch radius, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Anthony has a chance to play across the formation as a receiver.
Anthony chose UW over Cincinnati and Duke.
Austin Brown — who hails from Johnston City, Illinois, a small town outside of Carbondale — was considering offers from Boston College, Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern before choosing UW. The consensus three-star prospect had 21 known scholarship offers.
Brown committed to UW on the Fourth of July.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has a good frame already and his high school film shows a willingness to lay big hits and attack blockers. He also plays quarterback for Johnston City.