By definition, Name, Image, and Likeness is a legal concept referring to an individual’s “right of publicity” and their ability to capitalize on anything that identifies them, including the ability to engage in third-party sponsorships and endorsements. Basically, student athletes can now earn money based off their celebrity, if applicable.
There’s been hundreds of thousands of debates on this topic both on the local and of course, national level and although I can certainly see some of the negative that comes with allowing college athletes to earn money based off their likeness, I see this as not only a good thing for the NCAA, but it’s also the fair thing- the right thing.
At KFKA, we’ve experienced the NIL world on a fairly small scale, an experience I’m happy to walk anyone through.
When the NIL concept was ruled legal by the Supreme Court, we quickly determined it would be a great network for the radio station to explore. The Hull Show already features student athletes on the program regularly but we wanted to set up and establish a network that would not only excite potential advertisers but provide unique programming items that would be entertaining to the listeners and followers of the station.
Our first athlete to sign with KFKA was beloved CSU Ram defensive linemen, Ellison Hubbard. Both parties being new to the uncharted waters of the NIL, we went through the beginning process with a fine-tooth comb and made sure to take all the legal steps with Colorado State compliance. Ellison being the solid guy that he is, made the process extremely easy and we got the green light to move forward from compliance. Essentially, we wanted to do a 1-hour radio show that would be centered around him, digging deep into the X’s and O’s of football, discussing the ups and downs that come along with the season and any interesting NCAA/sports topics that popped up along the way.
So we were all in agreement that our first NIL deal would be a player themed radio show not necessarily unlike a college coaches show but perhaps a bit more sporadic and off the cuff. But how would the station benefit? How would the player benefit? Aside from attracting CSU Rams fans to the station and show, financially, we would need to find a sponsor to make the work, time and effort of producing a weekly 1-hour radio show worthwhile. Our plan was to pay Ellison 50% of whatever we brought into KFKA based off of his Name, Image and Likeness. But we still had work to do. We would need a sponsor. Much like the “Ford Tough Coach’s Show” or the “Peak Kia pre-game show” we would need a name sponsor of the Ellison Hubbard Show. Ellison suggested we call his favorite pizza joint in Fort Collins, Krazy Karl’s Pizza. Our sales team reached out, set a meeting and away we went.
Ellison, who is looking at a career in media post football, was more than willing do whatever it would take to make this first NIL venture a success. Ellison and I showed up for the meeting with the owners of Krazy Karl’s and it was one of the easiest sales calls I’ve ever been on. Ellison was dressed to the nines and was professional and sincere. Suffice to say, the great folks at Krazy Karl’s loved the idea and the first ever NCAA player focused radio show on KFKA had liftoff. The Ellison Hubbard Show presented by Krazy Karl’s Pizza was a hit and also provided real-world experience to Ellison as far as helping produce a radio show and dealing with the business side of the media world. He went on a sales call, filled out necessary paperwork so he could be paid, looked over his first independent contractor agreement, checked in with his sponsor to insure they were happy and of course, provided excellent insight inside his radio show every week.
Things on the football side didn’t go as planned for Ellison as he entered the transfer portal a few weeks into the season. He did not seem to click with the current coaching staff and his playing time was dwindling. As we know now, it’s safe to say there were several folks around the program not clicking with Head Coach Steve Addazio and his staff. Fast forward and CSU has since moved on from Addazio and hired a new coach and staff.
All in all, it was a huge success for the station, the player and the sponsor. We continued the football player portion of the show with an absolute stud and possible future NFL player, Scott Patchan, and he did what was needed to make the sponsor happy with the change. Now onto basketball, KFKA rolled out the David Roddy show presented by Krazy Karl’s Pizza, another wonderful program that listeners and fans absolutely love.
We have several athletes on the station, both from CSU and UNC in Greeley, endorsing their favorite businesses and supporters in the area. We’ve worked with some great young people in the process; Hubbard, Patchan, Roddy, Dylan McCaffrey, Bodie Hume, Conner Martin and Daylen Kountz. They have all done everything that was asked of them and carried themselves professionally and were enthusiastic with the station and sponsors.
I know we aren’t talking millions of dollars with our deals, and I know Northern Colorado isn’t Alabama, but from what we’ve seen on a local level has been very productive. I have been for the NIL set up for years now but after working in the world of college athlete endorsement deals, I am even more passionate about it. Will there need to be more regulation and further examination as we grow with this process? No question. It’s not a perfect setup yet but it’s a start.
The NCAA is a business. Stop pretending these are amateur athletes. Stadiums are filled with screaming fans on Saturdays just as much as they are on Sunday’s that pay handsomely to be there, to buy the teams gear, to donate to the program so on and so forth.
No one is saying the school should share their money with the players. But allowing them the experience that Ellison Hubbard had USED to be illegal in the eyes of the NCAA. Think about that for a moment. The idea of a young man dressing up, meeting with a potential sponsor and convincing them to sponsor his radio show (an industry he wants to be in when he is done with football) and working to give fans an inside look at college football from a player’s perspective all while being paid was actually illegal.
Now, players like Ellison can explore more options outside of sports. Sure, they MUST keep up with their school and chosen sports first and foremost, something we lay out well ahead of signing anyone. But during their small amounts of free time, if they so choose and can gain a sponsor or two, then why not let them earn? Make money, build your brand and learn! That shouldn’t be out of reach to a young man or woman just because they are playing a sport for an NCAA program. College is about learning, right? How better to learn and be a contributing member to society than to be accountable to several businesses and entities by fulfilling what’s required by their sponsors or third parties?
Real life experience for a college football player might sound like a wild concept, but in the end, the NCAA will produce many more well-rounded, business oriented young men and woman than ever before.