A changing landscaping is occurring in collegiate athletics as pressure continues to mount on the NCAA about student-athlete’s ability to profit off their name, image and likeness.
The list of states across the country that have either passed name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation or are in the process of debating legislation that has been introduced in state legislatures is growing, with the NCAA having not yet recommended its own legislation to regulate the process.
Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico and Georgia are several states that have enacted NIL legislation, which become effective starting July 1.
Division I star athletes at top tier programs and in high revenue sports such as NCAA football and basketball would be the top percentage of college athletes to take advantage of this new landscape.
But what about the athletes who are not the stars of their programs and do not have the opportunity to make money professionally? There is a new company based in Princeton that was co-founded to help those athletes also take advantage of the opportunity to make money off their own NIL.
98Strong was created by two former Division I Men’s Water Polo players Andrew Mavis and Nick Bunn. Mavis played at George Washington University and Bunn played at Harvard University.
“We are not only helping just Division I athletes find opportunities, but also Division II and Division III athletes. We are not exclusive to Division I,” Mavis said. “We want to help the 98% of student athletes who do not go pro in both men and women collegiate sports. We are really looking for the little guy and to work with them – those individuals who otherwise would not have the same opportunities as the stars.”
98Strong connects businesses and sponsors to the athletes who seek help from the company; those businesses and sponsors can be local in the state the athlete is in or outside of their current area.
For example, in Florida, which will allow student-athletes on July 1 to take advantage of their NIL, a Florida Gulf Coast University indoor women’s volleyball player’s first step to working with 98Strong is joining for free, they said.
“It is super simple. They just put their email in, their name, their school, and once they are in our system we go out and start competing for them,” Mavis said. “We start to look for sponsors for them. The big question I think there is why would anyone give a sponsor to a kid who does not have a big social media following or such a big influence, and the way we look at is how much harder those 98% work. An athlete like that does have the respect of their community.”
Once the athlete is signed up, 98Strong will not get in touch with the athlete until the company has an email alert. The email alert will have opportunities listed for the athlete from sponsors not only locally, but nationally and internationally.
“Once they get the email, they will be able to select opportunities based on their availability, time and what interests them,” Mavis said. “We not only want to be the connection, but want to help facilitate what the sponsor wants and what the athlete wants before and after the deal is in place. We want to be that middle man. We understand as former athletes that they do not have the time or the energy to constantly be in touch with a sponsor on what they want the athlete to do or post.”
Since launching officially two weeks ago, Mavis said the company has a growing list of athletes already signed up from different areas of the country and college sports.
“We have a number of different sponsors interested. I could not really put a number on it. No deal can happen yet until the first states start on July 1,” he said. “We are still not in a position to connect them directly. Right now in the next couple weeks we are gauging the interest of sponsors who want to break into this market, such as small athletic apparel companies, nutrition brands and things student-athletes use.”
Mavis has also been connecting with small businesses in Princeton and small businesses near Florida State University in Tallahassee.
When it comes to New Jersey, the state enacted its own NIL law in 2020; however, the law won’t go into effect until 2025.
So, a student-athlete at Princeton University would not be able to receiving opportunities from the company.
“But we are encouraging college athletes everywhere to sign up, especially from New Jersey, even though it won’t be effective for several years, because they will be able to be higher on the list to receive opportunities once the green light is given,” Mavis said. “Also, because we do not know when these types of laws will come into place as well either federally or when decisions will be made through the NCAA.
“We have a couple athletes from California who are signed up and we can’t really do anything with them until 2023. So they are on our wait list and we will update them on where the state is at regarding the NIL.”
98Strong has to be up-to-date on the latest in terms of the state legislation across the country, because even though the foundation of each NIL bill is similar in some regard, there are also differences in what some states allow or prohibit.
According to the National Law Review, examples include Georgia’s law, effective July 1, empowering colleges in the state to elect a requirement that all student-athletes share up to 75% of the NIL compensation generated and received by each athlete; and student athletes in Alabama are prohibited from wearing any item of clothing, shoes or other gear with the insignia of any entity while wearing athletic gear or uniforms licensed by a postsecondary educational institution or otherwise competing in any athletic competition or institutionally-sponsored event.
“Back in November of 2020, Nick and I began talking about creating a company like this. Nick and I are both 98% athletes, we grew up as water polo players, we get the least recognition,” Mavis said. “We would not have many opportunities to monetize our NIL. We also realized that there would be huge divide in monetization opportunities for the athletes in the top 2% bracket then the athletes in the 98%. We started 98Strong to bridge that gap.”
For more information about 98Strong, visit www.98strong.com