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Here's how Wisconsin is preparing for its athletes to be able to cash in on marketing their brands
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Here's how Wisconsin is preparing for its athletes to be able to cash in on marketing their brands

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UW Field House generic

The UW Field House received an exterior facelift in 2020.

The transfer of power in the University of Wisconsin athletic department will happen on the same day that college players in some states get the power to market themselves in a foundational change for NCAA sports.

Chris McIntosh is due to take over from Barry Alvarez as UW's athletic director July 1. Laws allowing college players to capitalize on their personal brands take effect in five states that day.

The specifics on the opening of a market for college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness are unclear in Wisconsin, which is one of only 10 states where no legislative bill has been introduced to address the topic.

UW nonetheless has partnered with sports tech company Opendorse to offer athletes education and tools to find their platforms in anticipation of a loosening of NCAA restrictions on player marketing. The program, called YouDub, was unveiled Wednesday while a U.S. Senate committee was hearing testimony about federal legislative proposals that could standardize what the NCAA has said is a patchwork of state laws soon to go into effect.

The name, image and likeness topic is shifting quickly as states have taken it on by themselves and the NCAA has pushed off internal action. Here's what the YouDub program means now for UW and its players.

How does this help UW?

The Badgers stay competitive with other schools in planning for the impending NIL opportunities and giving players tools to use. (Think: a level recruiting playing field.) If only it was that simple.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico have passed laws allowing for college athletes to profit from their own marketing starting July 1. Other states have similar legislation on the books with a later start date.

Wisconsin isn't one of the 23 states with a NIL law or one awaiting a governor's signature, and does not have a legislative proposal for one. That could put the Badgers at a disadvantage in recruiting players who want, for example, to get paid for appearing at an autograph show. The NCAA wants to remedy the imbalance by asking Congress to intervene with a federal law.

NCAA leaders made another pitch for NIL-specific federal legislation Wednesday at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. The governing body wants to keep NIL regulations consistent nationally, but some members of Congress also want to expand protections for college athletes while addressing endorsement power.

Jim Polzin is announced as the Lee Sports Wisconsin Columnist, where he will write stories covering all levels of sports throughout the state.

What does it do for Badgers athletes?

All Badgers athletes from quarterback Graham Mertz to those in non-revenue sports can get a readout from Opendorse of how much they could expect to make from social advertising.

Players get access to education on how to build a brand and use NIL to their benefit. Online tutoring sessions offer advice from experts in Twitter, TikTok and other social platforms.

An app that gives players simplified access to photo and video content from their games to use in social posts is part of the deal with Opendorse. UW had been using INFLCR, another player in the NIL market, for that service for the last three years.

Does this mean UW athletes can use this to get paid?

Maybe soon, but there are some important distinctions to be made.

1. The YouDub program doesn't actually facilitate endorsement or marketing deals for players but instead informs on how to make them happen and tracks them for compliance purposes.

2. NIL isn't the same as a college athletics program paying players beyond footing the bill for attending school. There's broad support across college sports for the former but the latter is bitterly contested and awaiting a Supreme Court ruling.

3. Until a law goes into effect in Wisconsin or federally, it's up to the NCAA to set the parameters for NIL here. It was close to doing so in January but pulled back before a vote. It's possible a new set of rules will be issued by the NCAA Division I Council at its June 22 and 23 meeting.


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