New NIL opportunities pay off for Mavericks

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Jul. 31—A few years ago, Jamie Nelson didn't figure that a company would ask a women's hockey player from Minnesota State to promote a product.

But here she is, getting $1,000 to provide content for Snapchat.

"I saw the deal so I applied right away," she said. "It was a great opportunity, and I learned a lot from a Zoom meeting I had with them. Now, I'm using Snapchat to my advantage."

The NCAA recently was forced to allow college athletes the opportunity to market their name, image and likeness, making money that was once would have made them ineligible. Athletes are now allowed to benefit from corporate endorsements and personal appearances, but athletes are still learning how to benefit financially.

That's the role of Opendorse, a company that brings athletes and potential clients together for the purpose of finding NILs. Opendorse monitors activity and reports to the university's compliance office to make sure things are done properly.

Opendorse has tools available to help athletes with the logistics of the transactions, such as saving money or paying taxes. Clients pay a fee, based on the amount of the deal, so that students don't have to pay for any of the services.

According to Bri Cassidy, a spokesperson for Opendorse, Minnesota State is ranked 12th in all NCAA divisions for NIL opportunities, far ahead of other Division II universities.

In more than a year of the partnership with Opendorse, Minnesota State has 321 engagements between athletes and businesses, 66% of which used female athletes. The average transaction value is $61.97, with the highest being $700.

The average value will increase as a few Minnesota State athletes have agreed to a deal with Snapchat that will pay $1,000.

"Every week, I'm checking for any deals," said Nelson, who has more than 1,500 followers on Snapchat. "Right now, in the summer, there's not much going on, but I'll start checking every day or so."

Starting in February, Minnesota State will have the "Maverick Corral," where athletes post their profile and local businesses, donors or fans can list possible income opportunities. Minnesota State will be the first Division II program to have such a marketplace, which is common in Division I.

There are some rules for athletes using the service. They must complete the contract before receiving any compensation, and they must disclose the transaction to university officials.

The athletes can refer to themselves as Mavericks, but there can be no use of the school's logos or trademarks. It's a little trickier for international students, depending on their visa status.

There is no pay-for-play option, and an NIL opportunity can't be used as a recruiting inducement, though Mitch Randall, a sophomore on the Minnesota State football team, said it will become common knowledge that some universities will have more NIL opportunities than others.

"That's why it will be important to be at a great institution like MSU and a great community like Mankato," he said. "Everybody wants to go Division I because of the opportunity to make money, but people realize that there is some money to be made at Division II, too. It's another thing that could change how players are recruited."

Randall was cautious when he started to learn about NILs. But he had three deals last year and received between $300-$350 as companies and nonprofits took advantage of his 1,700 followers on Instagram.

"It's a great benefit for athletes," he said. "We work our butts off to get in this position. It's nice to see that the hard work pays off."

In football, MSU has 99 players splitting 36 scholarships, so the athletes can use some income to meet the usual life expenses.

Randall said he enjoyed doing some promotional work for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for which he received a T-shirt to post a link on his Instagram. He got some cash and product from Tiege Hanley, a skin care company for men, and will receive a 20% commission on future sales generated by his social media activity.

"The only time we can have jobs is in the winter or the summer, so it's nice to be able to make some money during the season," he said.

Nelson agrees that some cash will be nice for the athletes, who still have financial responsibilities, such as tuition, rent, food, utilities and car payments.

"Not everyone is on full scholarships," Nelson said. "People forget that we have to juggle school and jobs, and our practice schedule during the season is brutal. It's nice that we have some of these opportunities."

Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.