NIL Newsletter #97 | Miami/NCAA Investigation, Paige Bueckers x Crocs, SEC files brief in Johnson v. NCAA, BreakingT's Top-10 + ICYMI Ticker AND NIL Summit Awards
Welcome to the NIL Newsletter by Optimum Sports Consulting - providing valuable, actionable NIL resources for student athletes, administrators, agents and other sport professionals.
Recapping NIL This Week:
NCAA meets with Miami officials, including booster John Ruiz
The NCAA has launched an inquiry into the University of Miami serious enough that enforcement staff members visited the Coral Gables campus last week to conduct interviews, most notably with billionaire UM booster John Ruiz. NCAA investigators spent at least two days in Miami prying into NIL deals, sources tell Sports Illustrated. Contacted Tuesday morning, Ruiz confirmed that he spoke to NCAA enforcement staff members last week in what he termed a general “interview.”
“I’m extremely comfortable with what we are doing. I have nothing to hide,” Ruiz told Sports Illustrated. “It went super well. The NCAA is trying to wrap their hands around this sudden change of environment. They’re trying to figure out how the landscape is working.”
NCAA staff members interviewed others in Miami as well in what is believed to be the first serious inquiry into a college athletic department since the association lifted rules last July that once prohibited athletes to earn compensation from their likeness. Last fall, several schools received inquiry letters from the NCAA, but this is a new string of more serious examinations from the organization.
Ruiz’s time in front of NCAA investigators is believed to have at least centered on his NIL deal with men’s basketball guard Nijel Pack, a Kansas State transfer who signed a two-year, $800K deal to endorse Ruiz’s two companies, LifeWallet, a healthcare application, and the Cigarette (boat) Racing Team. He is one of 115 SAs that Ruiz has signed to deals, and while he acknowledges that most of them attend Miami, he’s struck deals with players from North Carolina and FIU. Ruiz says his NIL payroll is currently at about $7 million.
A Miami spokesperson provided SI with a statement: “Like our peer institutions around the country, the University of Miami communicates with NCAA staff to ensure compliance with applicable NCAA regulations. Per NCAA rules, and in order to maintain the integrity of the review, the university cannot comment on specifics of the matter.”
Paige Bueckers signs with Crocs
Bueckers, the 2021 women’s national player of the year who led UConn to the 2022 Women’s Final Four and national championship game, announced a partnership on Tuesday with Crocs. The NIL deal was announced on Bueckers’ social media accounts, including on Instagram where she has more than 1 million followers.
Financial details were not released by Bueckers or Crocs. But as part of the deal, she will be an official Crocs Ambassador.
Crocs is a world leader in innovative casual footwear for women, men and children. Crocs offer a broad portfolio of all-season products while remaining true to its core molded footwear heritage. The shoes have become popular with athletes to wear before and after games when they’re not in their athletic shoes.
The NIL deal with Crocs is not the first big deal Paige Bueckers has signed. She already had lucrative deals with Gatorade, Cash App and StockX. She has also filed a trademark for “Paige Buckets.”
SEC files brief supporting NCAA's opposition to recognizing athletes as employees
The Southeastern Conference filed an amicus brief last week to support the NCAA in its ongoing attempt to prevent the recognition of college athletes as employees of the schools they attend. The NCAA is a defendant, along with Villanova and other universities, in Johnson v. NCAA, a case originally brought by current and former college athletes in which they say that they should be qualified as employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Such participation should be categorized as an extracurricular educational activity to be administered and conducted in a manner consistent with each institution’s broader educational mission and policies,” the SEC wrote in its brief. “Not as an employer-employee relationship between the institution and the participants that requires mandatory pay.”
The SEC said in a statement to The Athletic on Monday that it “joined more than a dozen educational organizations, including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the NCAA in urging the court not to radically change existing law by treating student athletes as employees of their universities.”
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals will determine in Johnson whether athletes can be classified as employees under the FLSA after a judge refused to grant the NCAA’s motion to dismiss the case last fall. The SEC is not a party to the lawsuit, nor are any of its members. It filed the brief to offer an “additional and alternative basis” for the Third Circuit to overturn the district court decision, it wrote, because it considered the case a “legal issue of significant interest and importance to the Conference and its member institutions.”
BreakingT announces its top-10 selling shirts from year 1 of NIL
BreakingT was one of the first companies in July of 2021 to jump into NIL, bringing its focus on player-inspired products to college sports with RAMP. RAMP is a commercial licensing program designed specifically for collegiate athletes to capitalize on their NIL and earn royalties on the biggest moments in college sports.
Since July 1, BreakingT has partnered with 150+ SAs on, releasing 200+ different pieces that have generated nearly $1 million in sales.
Below are the top-10 performing shirts (with links):
WWE has announced its 2nd “Next in Line” class featuring 15 SAs from 14 different universities, 7 NCAA conferences, and 7 sports. Ali Mattox (Ole Miss-Cheer/Dance); Case Hatch (Arizona State-Football); Chandler Hayden (Tennessee-Track/Field); Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State-Wrestling); Derrian Gobourne (Auburn-Gymnastics); Ericka Link (Elon-Volleyball); Keshaun Moore (Hampton-Football); Luke For (Illinois-Football); Maliq Carr (Michigan State-Football/Basketball); Mikala Hall (Central Michigan-Basketball); Rachel Glenn (South Carolina-Track/Field); Ruben Banks (Arkansas-Track/Field); Thunder Keck (Stanford-Football); Tyanna Omazic (Miami-Volleyball); and Zachary Knighton-Ward (Hofstra-Wrestling).
Bayliss Flynn, a rising senior and star soccer goalie at Edina High School, became the first Minnesota HS student athlete to sign an NIL deal. Flynn signed a deal with TruStone Financial and will promote the credit union’s debit card. She’ll serve as a voice for financial education and literacy for teenagers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and her obligations remain a work in progress. Full story HERE.
Cincinnati AD John Cunningham: “We had over 200 [NIL] deals (this past year) combined over $1 million worth of those deals, and we had great partnerships with local businesses. We had one of the best players on one of the best teams in Desmond Ridder. He was able to take advantage of it and deservingly so. You look at the Skyline Chili thing we did with our offensive line. That's exactly the way this is supposed to work where you have a local business that says, ‘Hey, we can add value here,’ by attaching themselves to our offensive linemen.”
Opendorse announced its commitment to launch school-specific NIL marketplaces for over 75 partner schools throughout the fall of 2022. This summer, they will launch a complete overhaul of its world leading NIL marketplace to accelerate opportunities for student athletes.
Middle Tennessee AD Chirs Massaro: “Hopefully, some of the crazy stories you're hearing about the NIL deals will slow down, because to me there's a difference between pay-for-play and NIL. SAs deserve to make money on their name, image and likeness, but if it just becomes outbound pay-for-play, that's a different set of rules, in my opinion. The long term solution is that there will be some sort of national or regional uniformity on this soon. Whether the conferences do it themselves, the NCAA does it, Congress does it, the courts do it, or a combination of all the above. But that will take some time to sort out.” More HERE.
Utah is taking its Elevate U student athlete NIL program to the next level with the announcement of a significant expansion of its partnership with INFLCR. More HERE.
Teamworks has raised another $50M in Series D, funds that will target technology improvements, recruiting and growth through acquisitions.
Virginia Tech and Campus Ink have announced a new NIL partnership. The deal will allow student athletes at Virginia Tech to use the school’s logo and trademarks in merchandise for NIL opportunities.
NIL Summit Recap
Male Athlete of the Year — Chase Griffin, UCLA
Female Athlete of the Year — Sedona Prince, Oregon
Innovator of the Year — Chloe Mitchell, Aquinas College
HusAward — Rayquan Smith, Norfolk State
Scholar Athlete of the Year — Leah Clapper, Florida
Athlete Advocate of the Year — Megan Skaggs, Florida
Breakthrough Athlete of the Year — Jordan Chiles, UCLA
Crypto Award — Shareef O’Neal, LSU
Best Individual Campaign — Morgan & Morgan
Best Team Campaign — College Hunks Hauling Junk & Movers
Best Social Media Campaign — Mercedes Benz
Best Institutional Program — Boise State
Brand of the Year — WWE