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What Each Big Ten Coach Thinks About NIL

Despite hints of jealousy and concern, Big Ten coaches are on board with the decision.

On July 1, a combination of NCAA rules and state laws went into effect that allow student athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness (NIL). The specific regulations that athletes must follow regarding their NIL vary by state. Multiple Big Ten head football coaches, as well as Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, addressed the topic from the podium at Big Ten Media Days this week in Indianapolis. Here's what they had to say. 

Kevin Warren (Big Ten Commissioner)

on July 1st of 2021, in the first time in over 150 years of college athletics, student-athletes gained the opportunity to be able to compensate for their name, image, and likeness, which I still believe needs federal legislation. We in the Big Ten conference embrace the empowerment of all of our student-athletes from social justice initiatives to NIL. Our student-athletes in the Big Ten conference, which you'll be able to see over the next couple days, are bright, hard working, intelligent, creative, and resilient.

P.J. Fleck (Minnesota)

I'm fired up. I'm fired up about name, image, and likeness. I think it's tremendous. Our location, the Twin City area, the three and a half million people we have in our city, the 18 Fortune 500 companies, this isn't a small, little college town. We have businesses galore and now having the ability for our players to benefit off their name with all of these companies, that we can't be a part of organizing that, but they have all these resources at their disposal, at their fingertips. 

Now there's no Minnesota state law yet, so we have to be able to follow the NCAA, and obviously the University of Minnesota guidelines. But this is awesome that players get to now benefit off their name, image, and likeness. 

Change is inevitable. This was coming. We all knew that. But to be in an urban area like we are with the major corporations that we have, it's only going to benefit our student-athletes, and we have had numerous student-athletes already benefit from that. I think that's really positive as we continue to move forward. 

The big thing we have to continue to do is we got to keep adding education because with the name, image, and likeness comes things like taxes, scams, agents. We have to continue to educate the student-athlete and that's what we already have built into our program. We have had to Gopher Life program, which used to be the Bronco For Life program, for nine years now, which talks to them about finances, taxes, all the things we have done. Now we just got to be able to make that bigger and better as we continue to inform our student-athletes. But I'm excited. As long as we have our players' safety at the forefront of everything we do in terms of keeping them safe, I think it's a benefit, and we knew it was coming. Being at the University of Minnesota, where we're located, I think it's a grand slam.

Scott Frost (Nebraska)

I'm excited for NIL. It's going to change the landscape of college football, probably college athletics in general. But anything that benefits our student-athletes I'm really excited about. 

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. 

I don't think we have really scratched the surface yet of where this can go at Nebraska, probably around the country, there's a lot of work that still has to be done to figure out the best ways to make NIL work for our student-athletes, but I think Nebraska's uniquely positioned to do it and our leadership's done a good job laying the ground work so we can take advantage of it.

James Franklin (Penn State)

I look at it mainly as how do we make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can to support the student athlete. To me it's very simple, right, 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. 

Obviously there's a different platform and there's a different opportunity, especially when you're at a place like Penn State with our fan base and our alumni base, and we're trying to prepare these guys for life after football, right, and this is going to be part of that. For them to be able to use the things that they have learned, be able to take advantage of the network and the resources that we have, so we have embraced it. 

We want to be bold and aggressive in everything we possibly can do, but for me and for us it's really about the student athlete and making sure that they're going to have an opportunity to capitalize on this. Our guys have been really proud of because I think they have showed a very mature approach, obviously in the summer and the spring we want to be aggressive about this. 

It is going to be something that we're all going to have to manage in season that it doesn't become a distraction and take away from what they're really trying to do, which is to get a great education and play great college football.

Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

I think NIL for all student-athletes is outstanding. 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. I mean, come on? If I was here in Indy, I probably could get a free cup of coffee. 

There's a lot of opportunities for growth and improvement in college football and the NCAA and I think NIL is the first step. I love listening to all the coaches in the SEC and the guys before me, We've got the best opportunity of NIL in Evanston, in Chicago. 

We're all trying to figure this thing out, so we need to get off thinking we have all got the best and work hard to educate our young men, educate their families, and then eventually put things in place to educate from the NCAA and the Big Ten level perspective student-athletes and their families. 

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This is a great opportunity, if used the right way, but it's a job. And you have to have the right resources around the student-athletes to support them and support their family. So I think we're going to all learn a lot through these next 12 to 24 months, but it's a positive first step. I'm just a little jealous.

Greg Schiano (Rutgers)

I think, number one, we're going to learn a lot more in the next 12 to 18 months exactly how it's going to impact everything. I think it's a great thing for our student-athletes, though. They deserve to be able to make income off of their name and likeness. I agree with that. 

I think the thing that it is even, I wouldn't say as much, but equally important, it's a great opportunity for us to educate them, right? We're injecting them into the free market society. There's so many lessons to be learned. 

Just the other day we had a deep discussion about income tax. I think back to when I was 19 or 20 years old. I didn't understand income tax. I mean, wait a minute, that dollar, I don't actually get to keep that whole dollar? So to have that conversation, just to see their eyes, because when NIL became official, we had -- and even before -- we had a very, very concentrated audience. They wanted to know the facts. And what a great opportunity for all of us as coaches to teach our guys. 

Again, my whole thing is recruit and develop. Recruit the right guys for Rutgers, and then develop them in every area of their life so they can go be the husbands and fathers and successful people in society. Learning all this about finances, about free market and trade, all that stuff, I think it's great for our student-athletes.

Ryan Day (Ohio State)

There was a lot of talk about projections last year, coming off of last year with what Justin had the opportunity to make, and certainly those were big numbers, but it didn't happen, so we'll see when it all does come to fruition. 

I think that stuff will happen naturally and I think the focus for all those guys just has to be development. If they're worried about starting, if they're worried about money, then they're worried about the wrong things. Those things happen and they will come naturally. But I do think that we need to consider, down the road, somewhere a long the line, maybe it's a year from now, figuring out how we spread some of that money out. 

Certainly the quarterback at Ohio State is going to have unbelievable opportunity. The wide receiver, the running back, there's going to be certain positions, when you combine the brand of Ohio State, you combine the brand of Ohio State football, you combine the city of Columbus with our social media presence, it's like the perfect alignment. So the opportunity for our guys is going to be unlike anywhere else in the country. 

However, how do we find ways to make sure we disseminate that throughout the team, because there's a lot of guys out there who are also playing football. There's guys who are blocking for the quarterback, there's guys who are covering the wide receivers. And while it's tricky and I don't really have quite the answer, I know that there's got to be some sort of formula down the road that we can consider.

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