Pitt ready to adapt as college athletes' compensation rules change


In the past two weeks, the rules that have prevented college student-athletes from being compensated for the use of their name, image or likeness (NIL) have quickly been eroding. And Pitt Athletics was ready to adapt to the change — announcing a collaboration on June 30 that will help the University’s athletes take advantage of new NIL legislation. 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the NCAA can’t bar student-athletes from getting compensation, and on June 30, the NCAA’s board of directors decided to officially suspend the organization’s rules prohibiting athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses. 

In Pennsylvania, the budget signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on June 30 also included a provision allowing student athletes to earn compensation for their name, image or likeness. Several other states have already passed similar legislation, and Congress is likely to take up the issue soon.

Pitt Athletics is addressing this new landscape with a program dubbed Forged Here. It will utilize resources from Pitt’s Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program, the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Center for Branding at the Katz Graduate School of Business to help student-athletes develop a personal brand identity, and provide education on business, financial literacy, wealth management, entrepreneurship and social media proficiency.

“Our goal is to be progressive, innovative and helpful in every aspect of their student-athlete experience and the world of name, image and likeness is no different,” Athletics Director Heather Lyke said in a news release. “We look forward to helping our student-athletes learn more about this topic and build a transparent relationship with them and their families so we can assist in their efforts or aspirations to maximize compensation and opportunities involving their name, image and likeness.”

Some of the ways athletes might earn money include: national advertising campaigns on traditional and social media channels; branded youth sports camps; their own businesses; memorabilia sales; and paid public appearances or autograph signings.

Lyke told The Pitt News that, "I don’t see this as loss of amateurism. We are not paying them. I think if we were paying them it would be very different. This is just treating them like any other college student in the country.”

Head men's basketball coach Jeff Capel said in the same article in The Pitt News that a collegiate athlete’s brand doesn’t start online, but rather with their dedication to their sport.

“I don’t know how many people really have a brand,” he said. “How many (athletes) truly do have a brand? The ones that do have a brand, they’re really really damn good… one the things I’ll say to the guys is that look ‘your brand is still made in between the lines’… don’t let the pursuit of just money and capitalizing on that get in the way of education and becoming really good at what you do.”

The on-campus groups that will partner on Forged Here said in the news release that they are looking forward to the challenge.

“By bringing together such a unique collection of experts in their various fields to Forged Here, Pitt is leveraging its world-class capabilities to create an impactful opportunity for our student-athletes,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“Our cutting-edge research will be utilized to develop a unique program that provides our students with the education and skills needed to develop, manage and leverage personal brands, with a view to strengthening their impact and influence,” said Vanitha Swaminathan, director of the Center for Branding.

Pitt also has expanded its relationship with INFLCR — a leading brand-building platform for student-athletes — to include INFLCR Plus and INFLCR Verified. The company, based in Birmingham, Ala., assists college athletic departments in content, compliance and recruiting strategies for these commercial activities.

The NIL rules now vary from state to state, which can make compliance issues tricky. According to ESPN, NCAA leaders emphasized that the rule changes put into place for July 1 were a temporary solution while they attempt to find ways to provide more guidance in the future.

“Our student-athletes work tremendously hard. They deserve to fully benefit from their efforts,” said head football coach Pat Narduzzi in the news release. “We are fortunate to have some outstanding support systems already in place at Pitt. When you combine those with our new NIL partnerships, especially in a thriving city like Pittsburgh, our student-athletes will be very well positioned to maximize their opportunities as we enter this new era.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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