Just up Lancaster Avenue from Villanova’s campus, Harry Davis wasn’t opening until 3 p.m. Thursday. But Davis was in before noon putting together a batch of watermelon water ice, readying it to freeze the old-fashioned way before the first customers walked into Capri Homemade Italian Ice in Wayne.
Davis, in business for 15 years, already was up to speed on the NCAA news of the day. As of now, college athletes can profit from their name, image, and likeness, by late-arriving NCAA edict and Pennsylvania law.
Is there anything that prevents Villanova athletes from promoting his product in return for something … at least a free water ice?
“Let me tell you something, Villanova basketball players, they used to live in here,” Davis said. “Donte DiVincenzo, he’d come in here. After they won [the 2018 NCAA title], he sat out there for an hour, had his picture taken with every kid.”
The difference now? DiVincenzo could get paid for it. Just down the street at Land Rover Main Line, the dealership quickly made an endorsement deal with Ryan Arcidiacono after his 2016 NCAA heroics, since his eligibility was done.
The difference now? Current Villanova star Collin Gillespie theoretically could walk in today and try to make a deal to be a “spokesperson and brand ambassador,” as Arcidiacono was. (No Land Rover deal for Kris Jenkins that year, since the guy who caught the Arcidiacono pass and made the shot still had a year of eligibility left.)
“Too soon to say,” was the answer from the folks at the dealership about the new landscape, except they were all aware of the new landscape. (Gillespie, for the record, was not sitting in the waiting area.)
This day was coming. I asked a longtime Villanova season-ticket holder how many season-ticket holders have businesses that will consider sponsorship deals with Villanova athletes.
“You can’t believe how many people will, at all money levels,” he said.
To be determined … and what the money levels would look like.
There are asterisks built in. The NCAA said athletes must follow state laws, and new Pennsylvania law notes “an institution of higher education may prohibit a college student-athlete’s involvement in name, image or likeness activities that conflict with existing institutional sponsorship arrangements.”
Nope, you can’t cut your own sneaker deal. (You should, but you can’t.)
Also, there’s a “prohibition” list, pretty standard across the country. The Pennsylvania version: You can’t be associated or represent businesses involved in adult entertainment, alcohol, gambling, tobacco and electronic smoking products, prescription pharmaceuticals, and controlled substances.
Athletes can hire “professional representatives” to broker marketing deals. There cannot be recruiting inducements from schools or their boosters offering such deals. That’s still an NCAA violation. In other words, no guarantees walking in the door from high school.
Schools are expecting a range of marketing activities, from transactional posts on Instagram to the opportunity for videos-for-hire on Cameo. If Kevin McCullar of Texas Tech, who averaged 10.4 points a game last season, has set his price correctly Thursday at offering a personal Cameo video at $50, that market will be interesting to watch.
If the Pennsylvania law, for instance, calls for fair market value, that also will be interesting to watch.
Schools with resources are being proactive in this whole area. Villanova is giving two pieces of technology to its athletes – one kind on the compliance side, the other more on the marketing side.
The Compass compliance tool already used by the athletic department is being shared with athletes. The tool will have basics from “what is NIL?” – name, image, and likeness – to contract advice to financial literacy to Villanova-specific content, with on-campus experts making videos on taxes, branding, and other sports law topics.
Also, if athletes do a personal marketing deal, they are expected to enter it into the Compass tool so the athletic department has the details of it.
On the other side, Villanova has signed on for Inflcr, which brands itself as “We’re changing the game. Grow your brand while staying NIL compliant.” One of its features allows the school to download all its photos. With a name and a headshot, athletes can log on and find all photos taken of them to help create their own content.
Where this all leads, nobody knows. I talked Thursday to an agent with clients at all levels of professional basketball, and he said he was trying to feel his way through it all.
“I guarantee there are going to be a ton of 20-somethings, maybe younger, who are going to hang a shingle and say, ‘Hey, I know how to do this,’ " the agent said. “I think it’s going to look like the wild, wild West for a while.”
If it all sounds like a mirage, don’t be so quick to think there’s no real money out there to be made. Some athletes with huge Instagram accounts are expected to translate that into quick income. What that means for a backup offensive lineman is a different question, but that’s kind of the point of all this.
Fair market value travels in all directions. An LSU gymnast with followers into the millions. She’ll get paid now. SEC quarterbacks? They’ll get paid. Women’s college hoop players who have more Instagram followers than their top men’s counterparts. They’ll get paid.
From his perspective, the agent said, “It takes a lot of effort to hustle a marketing deal for an athlete. Often the effort is far greater than the reward. Often you do it for good will.”
Maybe some athletes will create personalized endorsement content for free food at the local diner, free gear at the sporting goods outlet … hey, free water ice in Wayne.
Could Davis see it being worth it for a business and an athlete to do a little deal?
“I say yes,” Davis said as he made his water ice. “As close as we are to Villanova, to Eastern …”
To all sorts of colleges at all NCAA levels. A Cabrini athlete promoting Strawberry Mango on his Instagram?
“He’s going to bring in customers because people are familiar with him at Cabrini,” Davis said. “I think it’s a good thing.”