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NIL: Clemson's Next Frontier

Despite questions, fears and ramifications, Clemson's resources and programs are well-prepared for the new era of collegiate sports.

Name, image and likeness.

It's become the most talked about, questioned and feared topic college sports has seen in decades - potentially ever. There's no question that the NCAA's decision to allow ALL student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness on July 1 could be a game-changer. 

By now, you've probably heard or thought of all the negative ramifications. While schools aren't permitted to pay college players, they're left sorting through what little red tape there is for this new era. 

Here's what Clemson University released on its site earlier this week, highlighting the dos and don'ts of NIL:

In the State of South Carolina:

An agreement in which an intercollegiate athlete participating in intercollegiate sports authorizes a person to use his or her name, image, or likeness and, in return, receives compensation.It must represent a genuine payment for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness, independent of, his or her athletic participation or performance and not initial and continuing enrollment (recruiting inducement).

1. It must represent a genuine payment for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness, independent of, his or her athletic participation or performance and not initial and continuing enrollment (recruiting inducement).
2. Compensation refers to money, goods or services, and may only be provided by a third party unaffiliated with Clemson.


Student-athletes may obtain an athlete agent/marketing representative, who must be registered in accordance with South Carolina Law, for the purpose of securing compensation for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness.

Compensation refers to money, goods or services, whether provided at the time or at any subsequent date.

The use of Clemson’s facilities and uniforms for NIL activity is not permitted.

The use of Clemson’s intellectual property (logos, designs, photos, etc.) for NIL activity is not permitted at this time.

NIL activity may not take place during the intercollegiate athlete’s participation in academic, athletic, or team-mandated activities.

Compensation for NIL activity may not come directly from the institution or its employees.
The student-athlete must meet all academic requirements of the NCAA and ACC and abide by institutional policies related to class absences.

Generally, the student-athlete must disclose the terms of an NIL contract to the institution prior to signing the contract.

Clemson student-athletes will use COMPASS to disclose their NIL activity.


Clemson University employees (including student workers) may not directly or indirectly create or facilitate NIL compensation opportunities.

Clemson University may not use or allow boosters (IPTAY members) to directly or indirectly create or facilitate compensation opportunities as a recruiting inducement or pay-for-play. However, boosters may be involved in approved NIL activity as defined by the state.

As you can see, there aren't really a lot of specific rules, which begs many questions for Clemson sports:

  • Will NIL turn into the Wild, Wild West without regulation from the NCAA? 
  • Who will be responsible if an institution steps out of line? 
  • Will the federal government eventually get involved? 
  • When will the NCAA form a more long-term plan? 
  • How much can student-athletes really make on the open market? 
  • How will it affect teams, locker rooms, relationships, etc.? 
  • Will recruiting turn into a battle of which school's market can offer prospects the most money? 

There are plenty more, and fear of the unknown has more or less taken over for fans of college sports, especially football. But while there are unforeseen ramifications and tough answers coming down the line, Clemson is well-suited to continue its dominance in recruiting and on the football field. 

For starters, the brand of the "paw" has never been bigger. The Tigers have entered college football's elite class. That has filtered down to other programs and enhanced the quality of talent and people Clemson is attracting these days. 

The coaching throughout the athletic department is strong. The facilities are top-notch. Leadership from the president, board of trustees and athletic director is as good as it gets. Everyone is on the same page and always moving forward.

That means Clemson is well prepared for this new era. It didn't sneak up on anybody. In fact, what's been established throughout the last decade has the school prepared to take advantage, not fall behind, with NIL in effect. 

For example, here's what four-star safety Sherrod Covil recently said when he committed to play for head football coach Dabo Swinney last month.

"Everything about Clemson spelled excellence," Covil said. "From the facilities to the coaches and their families to the players, PAW Journey, all the way to the Bible quotes from Coach Swinney."

It's important to note that Covil referenced the Paw Journey, Clemson's interactive and hands-on program that helps players learn various off-the-field aspects. It includes internships at top companies, teaching young men how to handle business situations and manage their time and money. 

All of those things are going to come in handy with NIL. Many other schools have something like this too, but Clemson has been super successful using it as a recruiting tool. The Paw Journey will only enhance college players' brand and ability to profit during their playing days and beyond. 

For those concerned that Clemson could fall behind other schools or even slip into the dark ages, think again. Swinney is always out front of what's coming. He already has the tools in place to keep top talent coming in with the Paw Jour. He's extremely adaptable and has the backing and resources of people who can help him succeed.

This goes for all of Clemson's sports. So while some folks have thought up all of the negative scenarios of NIL, be rest assured that the powers at Clemson have long been figuring out how this will lead the Tigers into the next frontier of success.