How one Michigan State NIL deal improved the life of a student athlete
Taiyier Parks moved into an East Lansing apartment of her own for the first time in the 2021-2022 school year, leaving behind the apartment building where many MSU athletes are housed. The then junior forward for Michigan State University’s women’s basketball team started going out more with her friends, shopped more often at the thrift stores she loves and was able to buy her mom a designer purse for Christmas that she couldn’t have afforded in the past.
The difference: monthly payments from a Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deal Parks signed with Michigan State Federal Credit Union.
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On top of her athletic stipend, which is somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000 per semester as required by the NCAA, Parks and the rest of her women’s basketball teammates received $500 a month during the 2021-2022 season, from October until June, from MSUFCU in exchange for social media posts and public appearances to advertise the credit union.
“It has helped out a lot with a couple bills here and there so I'm pretty grateful to have the extra cash in my pocket,” Parks told Bridge Michigan.
Parks, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of thousands of college athletes who are capitalizing off of the rapidly changing dynamics of collegiate sports in the NIL era. Since the United States Supreme Court ruled in June 2021 that collegiate athletes are unpaid workers and the NCAA, the governing body for college sports, was breaking the law by not letting them profit off their own Name, Image and Likeness, the floodgates of paying college athletes have burst open.
The ruling allows athletes to work with companies directly to use their brand as an athlete in marketing campaigns, similar to endorsements for professional athletes. For 12 months now, college athletes have been posting sponsored advertisements on their social media pages, appearing on billboards and commercials or given a product to show off around their respective campus.
Amateurism, or athletes playing for schools without compensation, was seen as one of the pillars of college sports since the NCAA’s inception but that changed immediately after the ruling. Starting in July 2021, a steady stream of endorsement deals between athletes and companies were announced and it hasn’t begun to slow down a year later as many companies turned to a new avenue for marketing campaigns.
The little guidance from the NCAA for NIL deals has opened up a wild west in college sports as more and more money is being given to athletes. NIL deals for premier college football and men’s basketball players and recruits, the two main revenue-generating sports in college, have reportedly reached seven figures and some athletes like Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young are receiving new Mercedes and BMWs in deals with local car dealerships.
The gaudy deals in the world of football and men’s basketball dominate most of the NIL discourse, but Parks and other athletes in “non-revenue” sports are reaping the benefits of the new era of college athletics even if the payscale is smaller.
“Even though not everybody gets like a Bentley or something like that, it's an opportunity just to go out and experience new things, network and meet new people and just learning more about yourself in this type of situation,” Parks said.
The NCAA provided little regulation or guidance on NIL — outside of its rule prohibiting explicit pay-for-play deals incentivizing recruits to attend a certain school — leaving it up to state governments and individual schools to set their own NIL guidelines. The Michigan legislature passed a law in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling allowing NIL deals but requires athletes to disclose the details of the partnership with their school.
Michigan State jumped at the opportunity and set up its own NIL policy to let athletes test the waters of the newly-open market immediately. Within months, the women’s basketball team, men’s basketball team and football team all had team-wide NIL deals and individual stars like wrestler Chase Saldate and runner Morgan Beadlescomb had deals with brands specific to their sport. The football and men’s basketball team receive $500 monthly from United Wholesale Mortgage, owned by billionaire MSU alumnus and former basketball player Mat Ishbia.
“From what I've seen, Michigan State has been very supportive to all athletes by having different apps so student-athletes can reach out to brands, get to know each other and just have their own business,” Parks said.
MSUFCU has been a sponsor for the women’s basketball team since 2019 but wanted to expand its support for the program to include direct payments to the players.
“We are pleased to partner with this group of outstanding student athletes and believe their efforts will help grow engagement with our products and services among one of our primary target audiences,” President/CEO of MSU Federal Credit Union April Clobes said in a statement.
Michigan State is one of hundreds of schools around the country that have solicited the help of INFLCR, an app which helps athletes find and pursue NIL deals with interested companies directly. Businesses register on the app with what school they are interested in working with and are connected to the athletes or their agents directly who are seeking NIL deals to negotiate.
The Michigan State athletic department has a group of seven people that handle all things NIL to keep the university up to speed with NIL developments around the country and make sure all deals are done in compliance with the rules, MSU executive associate athletic director for championship resources Ashton Henderson told Bridge Michigan.
The group talks through text to try to keep up with the “moving target” of NIL. Each person researches NIL deals and university policies around the country and share them with each other to “make sure we know what's going on and serve our student athletes and help educate them the best way possible.” Henderson said.
Henderson, who played football at Michigan State from 2006 to 2009, said NIL deals help athletes with financial burdens their athletic stipend cannot cover and allows them to grow their financial literacy by managing their own budget, filing their own taxes and negotiating business deals.
“NIL just puts a little bit more emphasis on (financial literacy),” Henderson said. “What I mean by that is the ability to know how to manage various tax implications and things of that nature that I didn't really have to think about when I was in school. So it's just given us an awesome opportunity and runway to continue to educate and provide substantial education and opportunities for our student athletes to grow.”
However, the biggest positive of NIL, Henderson said, is it allows athletes to show the public that they have more to offer than just their talents on the court or field and can be compensated for that.
“I think the student athletes are really excited to really showcase a variety of different things that they're good at and allow folks to understand that they're more than athletes,” Henderson said. “And what’s been the most rewarding part of NIL to me is allowing and seeing student athletes align their passions with business goals and entrepreneurial spirit and just various things that have not been there for many years in our industry.”
Parks has only signed the one NIL deal with MSUFCU so far but told Bridge she is looking to work with new companies during her final year at Michigan State. Parks remained tight-lipped about any conversations she had on prospective deals but said she plans to continue to reach out to companies. She said she is doing her due diligence in researching any prospective companies to make sure that she aligns with the company ideologically and that they will treat her like family.
The most exciting part of the future to Parks is seeing how NIL develops out of its infancy stage. She said she is looking forward to seeing how athletes find creative ways to work with companies and get paid while in college outside of the deals she’s seen to this point.
“NIL is the future,” Parks said. “There's going to be a lot of new changes and I'm pretty excited to see what the sports world will have for us moving forward.”
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