The NCAA’s opening of Name, Image and Likeness compensation opportunities for its student athletes was, as expected, mostly nonrestrictive. Just a few prohibitions such as barring compensation for performance on the field, signing with a particular institution or allowing them to pay student-athletes. It also set a guideline for following state laws concerning NIL, where those exist, and allowed schools and conferences in states where they do not to establish their own rules and limitations.
West Virginia University was quick to promulgate its NIL policy on July 1, making it available for its student-athletes to work from with the hope of avoiding potential problems.
The first part of of WVU’s policy echoes that of the NCAA’s, emphasizing three broad guidelines for NIL activities that are impermissible:
- Agreements without a quid pro quo (for example, compensation for work not performed)
- Agreements where compensation is contingent on initial or continued enrollment at WVU
- Agreements where compensation is contingent on specific athletic performance or achievement (for example financial incentives based on points scored).
WVU’s policy goes on to prohibit several types of endorsements or promotional activities, including bans on those involving alcohol, gambling, tobacco, NCAA-banned substances (such as performance enhancers or illegal drugs), firearms, explosives or lethal weapons, adult entertainment and athletic recruiting services. That is something of an extensive list, but it mirrors many of the areas that have previously been discussed in the NIL conversation or passed into law by some states (West Virginia has not yet passed such a state law).
Further prohibitions on the use of University property or facilities in the production of content are also in place, and student-athletes are required to notify the school of any transactions and endorsements three days prior to their publication/release, with the school reviewing and providing feedback or approval within three days’ time.
While those areas seem to be fairly cut and dried, the University policy leaves some room for interpretation and debate with a few of its new policy items. The school reserves the right to bar any activity or agreement that is “misleading or offensive,” and also bars those which conflict with WVU’s exclusive sponsorship arrangements, which include Nike, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, United Banks and WVU Medicine. WVU could also make determinations on other activities, products or promotions not covered in the list.
Finally, student-athletes will not be allowed to use any WVU institutional logos or trademarks in their content without first receiving approval from the school’s Brand and Trademark Licensing Office, most notably the iconic Flying WV, but also including other marks such as the University Seal, typefaces and trademarked lines such as “Go First” or “Let’s Go.” That also extends to any gear or clothing worn in the visual content. However, they can identify themselves as “current WVU student-athletes” without such approval.
No firm rules have been established for the use of University indicia by student-athletes – for now, those will be considered and ruled upon on a case-by-case basis by WVU’s Brand and Trademark Office.
Review and enforcement of potential conflicts with the policy will fall to WVU’s Compliance Office.
* * * * * *
Wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton was quickly out of the gate in the NIL space, posting his endorsement of a meal delivery service aggregation app.