Student-athletes cashing in on their name, image and likeness

Cash and deals available for more than just star players, according to experts
Experts advice for young athletes and their parents is to make sure to land at the right school.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:00 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:29 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The field of players in this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is the oldest it’s been in 15 years. That is largely due to new rules that allow student-athletes to earn money on their names, images and likenesses, according to two experts on college sports who spoke to Arizona’s Family.

“It’s taking the financial pressure off them to leave school and allow them to stay in school where they can gain maturity. They can build on their talents and also get further in their education,” said Jeff Cravens, president of On3, a company that tracks name, image and likeness of NIL deals and values for high school and college players. “It’s had a really positive effect on athletes overall,” said Cravens.

According to On3, the highest overall NIL value for a college or incoming college player for the coming year is Bronny James, who is the son of NBA star LeBron James. According to the site, the younger James is worth over $7 million. It’s largely due to his more than 12 million social media followers and his famous name.

Arizona's Family Investigates sat down with the presidents of ASU and UArizona to see if they think paying players is on the horizon.

Cravens says three main factors go into establishing a NIL value. They are performance, influence and exposure. “I think doing it the right way is really understanding that what you put on social media impacts that. So you could have a big following, but if the reason you have a big following is because you do something that’s, you know – wacky, then most brands, that’s not something they want to associate with,” said Cravens.

While the deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars make headlines, according to Cravens and Keevan Statz, who teaches sports marketing at ASU, most deals are worth between $500 and $1,000. And those deals are available to a wide variety of student-athletes, not just the superstars.

Statz’s advice for young athletes and their parents is to make sure to land at the right school. “Focus on the fit of the school,” said Statz. “If there’s a fit there, a cohesive structure where your student athlete and your son or daughter is set up to succeed long-term, then the money will come later,” he said.

According to both Statz and Cravens, what’s at stake is the ability for many student-athletes to graduate debt-free and possibly with some money in the bank. “This could mean the difference between them graduating debt-free or not. For other athletes, it can mean the difference between leaving school with, you know, $30,000 in an investment account,” said Cravens.