Lyons: New NIL policy is a “great opportunity” for student-athletes

Gold and Blue Nation

It’s hardly been a full day, and student-athletes across the college sports world are already capitalizing on the NCAA’s recent policy regarding their name, image and likeness rights.

As the chair of the NCAA’s Division I Council and a member of the Football Oversight Committee, West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons has seen his fair share of uncharted waters over the last year. This decision, however, could prove to be the most impactful on the landscape of college athletics for years to come.

“It’s a new day in college athletics, and like anything else in life, we’re going to have to adapt and move forward,” he told Gold and Blue Nation on Thursday.

Before the policy change, student-athletes were highly restricted in what they could do to generate revenue Now, they can profit off of their own likeness by selling autographs, holding camps, writing books, posting advertisements on social media, and more — the possibilities are vast.

Student-athletes do have some rules to follow moving forward. WVU prevents its own student-athletes from working with alcohol companies, gambling services, adult entertainment companies, or the like. The University also requires its student-athletes to fill out paperwork so it can keep tabs on what they are getting paid.

“There is a compliance element to this….It’s not just a free game,” Lyons said. “There is some compliance so we know what’s going on and how much they are getting paid. This is not a pay-for-play model.”

Some states, like Texas and California, had already passed NIL legislation before the NCAA adopted its new policy. West Virginia did not, but that simply made it easier for WVU to craft its own. Lyons says this allowed the University to give the most flexibility to its own student-athletes.

The University is also prioritizing education for its student-athletes. Not only will they need to be cognizant of WVU’s own guidelines, but federal and state laws as well, so they don’t enter into a bad partnership, or simply to make sure they pay their taxes.

“It’s very new, so we’re working through this together, but it’s something that’s to the benefit of the athlete, that’s what we want it to be,” Lyons said. “But we also want to educate of the consequences of being the owner of your own business, being the owner of your own brand, what does that actually mean and look like.”

WVU’s football team has been proactive in educating its players, even more than a year before the new policy was adopted. In May 2020, Neal Brown’s program partnered with Jeremy Darlow, an author and brand consultant, to help teach student-athletes the value of brand-building. This education is now incorporated into the team’s 5th Quarter program — the program’s education tool for life outside of football.

“I’m happy for our student-athletes,” Lyons said. “This is a great opportunity to modernize our rules and allow student-athletes to monetize their name, image, likeness.”

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