INDIANAPOLIS — Name, image and likeness is changing the landscape of not only college football, but all of college athletics.
Despite the nationwide debate surrounding the NCAA's new policies, many Big Ten coaches are embracing the opportunities their players have in front of them. They'll not only be teaching their student-athletes about how to succeed on the field, but how to also succeed in life after football.
"I'm fired up about name, image and likeness," Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said Thursday during the 2021 Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium. "I think it's tremendous."
Many college towns, especially those in the Big Ten, are bustling with opportunities for partnerships and deals related to NIL. Fleck emphasized that the Golden Gophers' student-athletes have all the resources necessary to succeed right at their fingertips.
"Our location in the Twin City area, the 3.5 million people we have in our city, the 18 fortune 500 companies, this isn't a small, little college town," he said. "We have businesses galore, and now have the ability for our players to benefit off their name with all of these companies."
Droves of players across the country are finding NIL opportunities, small and large. And while athletic coaches and staffs are not permitted to set up these deals for their players, they've expressed their enthusiasm about educating the student-athletes while also supporting them in their endeavors.
These programs are backed by fans across the country. And for some, they're the only major college team in their state.
"Anything that benefits our student-athletes, I’m really excited about," Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. "I think Nebraska’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of it, just because of the passion surrounding Nebraska football. We’re the only show in town, we have fans all over the country and all our eyes are on us in the state of Nebraska. And I think there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to want to partner with our players and help give them some advantages."
However, with all the positives that come from these opportunities, questions about competitive advantages are surrounding bigger programs. Both Frost and Penn State coach James Franklin assured that they will not use NIL in any effort to recruit players.
Frost said that to once again bring high-caliber, in-state prospects to Nebraska, the team simply needs to win.
For the Nittany Lions — who have had plenty of success in the Big Ten in recent years — the program is looking to support its student-athletes, rather than use NIL to recruit players.
"We're providing an opportunity for our student-athletes to get an opportunity that every other student on the college campus has been able to take advantage of forever," Franklin said.
Profiting from NIL is an unprecedented milestone for college sports, and numerous former players have brought up what it would have been like back in their era. Some are envious of what lies ahead of today's college athletes.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said there are numerous opportunities for growth and improvement in the NCAA, and this is just the first step.
"I think NIL for all student-athletes is outstanding," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I'm not going to lie to you, I'm a little jealous. I mean, think about the mid 90s, the dough I would have made."
As more players continue to sign partnerships and deals relating to their name, image and likeness, more universities will strengthen their education system. And while some players came to college only to play sports, the coaches in the Big Ten are looking to help their players grow for when it's time to hang up the cleats.
"We're preparing these guys for life after football, and this is part of that," Franklin said.
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