On June 14, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Texas’ name, image, and likeness (NIL) bill, which had previously been approved by both the Texas Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill will allow collegiate student-athletes throughout the state of Texas to profit from the use of their NIL, subject to some statutory carve-outs. The excitement throughout the state from various student-athletes has been palpable. Many students took to various internet and social media platforms on Monday evening after the bill was signed in order to announce planned launches of their first NIL-related enterprises. Several in-state college football players announced lines of branded apparel that will be hitting the market soon.
The topic of NIL law has been particularly exciting and prominent, given that it is coming on the heels of a year-plus long ban on recruiting visits. This ban was originally instituted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic last March, and was lifted on June 1, 2021. Many believe the reinstatement of recruiting visits, coupled with the passage of NIL in several states, is ushering in a new era of collegiate recruiting. Many colleges and universities within the state of Texas have been preparing for this moment for quite some time. UT athletic director Chris Del Conte expressed a commonly held view among university administrators the evening the NIL bill was signed in stating: “I want to reassure and remind Longhorn Nation that we are prepared and have been actively engaging our student-athletes and staff for this new era of college athletics…our student-athletes have access to first-in class resources and education on personal branding and brand management, business formation and entrepreneurship, opportunity management and financial literacy.” Similar sentiments have been shared by other athletic directors around the state, who have expressed their readiness and enthusiasm for this new era.
This confluence of technological advances and a growth in the rights of student-athletes has created an environment that has been described as the “wild west” of college sports. This reference to the uncharted territory that the college sports world is rapidly approaching seems apt. With college football recruiting season at high-tide currently, reports from the long-awaited official visits that have been occurring since their reinstatement on June 1 have noted that schools throughout Texas are focusing their recruiting pitches significantly around NIL. The universities are seeking to highlight the value of their university’s brand and the NIL ecosystem they have created. The early reports have noted that the NIL pitches are resonating strongly with prospective student-athletes, and are among the highlights of the visits. With Texas being an early-mover as the 6th state to pass an NIL law, currently Texas schools have this unique advantage that they can foreground during these recruiting visits. The NIL effect has trickled down to the high school ranks as well. Many younger student-athletes are now overtly seeking to grow their personal brand through social media, as they prepare for the potential of having it magnified through participation in NCAA sports. College sports have arguably never been more exciting or complex, and Winstead will continue to monitor updates that emerge in this area.