Changing rules will allow college athletes to enter contracts for name, image and likeness

  • Maddie Truax plays on the women’s hockey team for the University of New Hampshire. Changing NCAA rules will allow her to profit from her own image. Courtesy

  • Maddie Truax plays on the women’s hockey team for the University of New Hampshire. Changing NCAA rules will allow her to profit from her own image. Courtesy

Concord Monitor
Published: 7/21/2021 4:25:32 PM

For her final season as a UNH Wildcat, Maddie Truax plans to market her name, image and likeness when she takes the ice for the women’s hockey team.

As of July 1, the National College Athletics Association announced that athletes across all three divisions could profit off of their reputation and image. For the first time, athletes can sign deals to sponsor products and market themselves.

“Honestly, it means a lot. We put a lot of work into our sport,” said Truax, who is a senior defender. “Being able to do this is really beneficial for school, as well just putting your face out there and letting people know that you play a sport and that you get that recognition.”

For many states, including New Hampshire, there is no universal policy in place. This leaves it up to each school to set forth for athletes until a state or federal bill is passed.

Shawn Green, the associate athletic director for compliance at UNH, knew changes were on the horizon for college athletes. But everything the school had prepared for was based on a set of NCAA proposals that ultimately changed. The university was left scrambling to draft its own rules at a moment’s notice.

“When they changed everything at the 11th hour, it was a massive change that required us to develop policies on less than a 24-hour notice,” he said.

At the University of New Hampshire, students are required to disclose all details of agreements before entering them. They are also not allowed to enter deals with companies that endorse alcohol, drugs, gambling, adult entertainment or substances banned by the NCAA.

Truax has entered two agreements, one with Sam Hossack Media and another with SidelineSwap. Neither of the agreements are paid, but both provide perks.

With Sam Hossack Media, a small media company working with other female hockey players, she will receive merchandise and free graphics, and appear on podcasts.

At SidelineSwap, an athletic gear resale website, she is now a verified athlete on the website, meaning she will receive a higher commissions if she sells her gear, or if she refers people to the website with her referral code. She will also receive free merchandise.

In order to sign these agreements, Truax had to upload specific details about the contracts to an online portal. Once UNH approved the deals, she was able to sign the agreements.

The process is long and complicated though, she said.

“It’s difficult because it is so brand new,” she said. “It really took everybody by surprise.”

Athletics departments across the state feel the same way.

Constructing a name, image and likeness policy is a learning moment for Peter Roby, the interim director of athletics and recreation at Dartmouth College. Ultimately Dartmouth will follow the Ivy League’s guidelines as well as the college’s rules on intellectual property, trademarks and product promotion. There will also be restrictions about what types of products students can promote.

However, a policy is not finalized yet.

“It’s all kind of fluid right now,” he said. “It is a work in progress.”

While schools are still crafting these policies, students are also introduced to new territory with the business side of the sports world.

“The business world has always existed; it’s just the NCAA rules have always prevented student-athletes from getting into that area,” said Green.

When exploring sponsorship agreements, student-athletes have the ability to learn more about marketing, promotion, finances and contracts, but they could also get burned by a bad contract.

“College is supposed to be about learning, and this is certainly a learning opportunity now (that) they can build their own businesses and brands,” said Green. “That certainly has an upside but also has some things they have to be careful about as well.”

Despite the excitement and opportunity these agreements provide, Roby fears they may deter from the educational component of a student athlete’s experience in college.

“I just worry that all this talk about NIL and generating revenue will somehow take the focus off of perusing their education, which is what we are all here for them to do in the first place,” he said. “I just don’t want to lose sight of what this is all about.”

Financial aid and the visa status of international students are two moving targets with these new agreements. UNH’s policy notes that students should be aware that potential earnings could result in ineligibility for need-based financial aid or interfere with visa status. This is something Roby urges students to be cautious of as well.

“That’s one of the key questions we want our student-athletes to think about before they enter into agreements,” he said.

Roby is not aware of any Dartmouth athletes who have signed an agreement. However, their compliance office has received a few requests for more details.

Franklin Pierce University, a Division II school in Rindge, is also requiring student athletes to contact their compliance office about any prospective agreements. They are still working on a full policy and guidance, according to Marissa Colcord, assistant vice president of university communications and marketing at Franklin Pierce.

At UNH, roughly 50 students have disclosed sponsorships or marketing agreements.

For Truax, who hopes to play professional hockey someday, she would sign more agreements if the opportunity presents itself. But she is not spending time seeking out further endorsements.

“I don’t go out searching because I want to focus more on the hockey. I want to win,” she said. “If people reach out to me and I do my research on the company or business and I see that they represent the things that I really enjoy or agree with, then I would definitely do it.”

Although schools are still finalizing the details of policies, Roby knows questions will still arise, especially when it comes to recruitment.

Students may choose schools based on visibility and exposure rather than academics and the best fit for them – all the decisions that normally go into selecting a school.

“They want to know they are going to play in front of a full house or they are going to be on television,” Roby said. “But now they are thinking of monetizing it as well as the fun that comes with playing in front of a full house or on television.”

The UNH policy specifies that any compensation or incentivization for prospective athletes to enroll at the school is prohibited. Athletes are also unable to make money based on performances.

Details, and consequences for violating the policy, are still in the works at Dartmouth. However, Roby hopes that consistent communication about prospective deals will help mitigate any issues as all parties figure out this new aspect of college sports.

“Everybody is working through it and learning as we go,” said Roby.

At UNH the policies will remain temporary for the time being, pending state or federal legislation.

“It is going to be something we continue to work on as it continues to evolve,” said Green. “This story didn’t end July 1. It just started.”




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