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Peak Perspective: As the NLI is already making waves, the Mountain West makes a splash.

As you may have seen definitely saw around the web, the NCAA announced that they have adopted an interim name, image, and likeness policy on Wednesday, June 30th, just under the July 1st deadline.

What the NCAA ruled:

Their full release announcement is published here for those of you who want to read it. The main points break down below:

Individuals can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities may be a resource for state law questions.

  • This makes sense. If there is a state law, schools and the athletes at those schools have to follow it. Since laws can be complicated, schools can talk to athletes to help players understand. It’s a safe bet to assume compliance offices will be working overtime for a while and likely growing in staffing size to accommodate these changes.

College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image, and likeness.

  • This is actually an interesting turn of events. For months, states with NIL laws were criticized, and rightfully so, for not getting with the times. However, it turns out the lack of action is now a benefit. If there are no state laws, athletes have much more freedom. This actually benefits many Mountain West schools, although it may be short lives. It would not be surprising for all states to adopt NIL laws eventually.

Individuals can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.

  • Some schools have already partnered with these services, as can be seen below. This ensures players have the exact same opportunities as the rest of us for consultation and advice. Rather than expecting a coach or school admin to serve in that role, let the experts be experts.

Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.

  • Definitely. Run it by the school first, make sure it is safe, and that it won’t impact eligibility or break any rules. It will not be surprising if athletes either accidentally cross the line or for some, try to push against the line and move it, and be suspended at some point during the season. Unfortunately, that will be part of the process in this unknown journey.

What the Mountain West schools announced:

At the time of this writing, only a few schools in the Mountain West Conference have announced anything related to NLI. And of course, the first one to release a statement is the most polarizing school, Boise State.

The Broncos released their NLI plans almost immediately on Wednesday, soon after the NCAA’s announcement and in line with many other schools across the country. Then, crickets... at least among MWC schools.

It wasn’t until mid-day on Thursday, nearly 24 hours after the NCAA’s announcement, that Colorado State and then Fresno State shortly after the Rams (although the Fresno State release said they joined Opendorse last summer and were the first MWC school to do so, for what it’s worth). Then Utah State much later in the day. However, things looked much different for these schools.

Accurate or not behind the scenes, the releases looked different for the schools listed above. Perhaps it was due to how the information was presented, or perhaps it was because the information presented contained more depth for certain schools.

Boise State’s release came across as if they had all of their ducks in a row and had everything ready to go for days or weeks and were just waiting for the NCAA announcement before hitting send.

Colorado State’s tweet about what is and is not allowed and Utah State’s tweet of supporting athletes benefitting from name, image, and likeness appeared more of a “well, we have to make some kind of comment about NLI,” which could come across as falling short of the standard, until it is realized that they are still ahead of 75% of the conference with just that one tweet.

Fresno State’s release is a positive and productive one. Partnering with a third party can only benefit athletes, and it’s great they were able to do that so quickly. If the agreement wasn’t finalized until Thursday, it makes sense why it could not be announced on Wednesday, so the Bulldogs should be given some leeway. However, not too much leeway, as Boise State made similar announcements with third-party partners on both June 28th and May 21st. This illustrates that even though they were ahead of the game, they were still behind the curve.

A breakdown of what Boise State has done:

  • Announced three third-party partnerships: INFLCR (in March), TeamAltemus (first school in the country), and NOCAP Sports.
  • Announced their “What’s Next” program to equip athletes to prepare for the NLI world, which their AD said they have been preparing for over the past several months.
  • Announced shorting after the NCAA, saying “their announcement has been in line with what we have been anticipating.”

Even the language Boise State uses is noteworthy. Phrases like “preparing for several months” or “what we anticipated” may be embellished, or it may be what other schools were also anticipating. The difference, however, is that the Broncos acknowledged it in their release while two-thirds of the conference has yet to announce anything.

As for the partnerships, INFLCR is about brand management and strategy and will allow players to analyze data. TeamAltemus focuses on financial literacy and education for student-athletes as they dive into this new venture, including three to five-minute sessions on topics such as how to pay taxes or budgeting. NOCAP is a platform that athletes and schools can use without conflict of interest. The platform automates the monitoring of NCAA and university compliance rules, so an athlete’s eligibility doesn’t come into question, simplifying compliance.

A breakdown of what other MWC schools have done:

  • Announce one third-party partnership with Opendorse (last summer)
  • Tweet support of NLI policies
  • Tweet what athletes are and are not allowed to do in accordance with the new NLI policies.

Opendorse will be a partner through 2024 and allow Fresno State athletes personalized brand-development education. They will understand their NLI rights and work with experts to maximize their value. Their three core pillars for success are: Assessment, Education, and Performance, all individualized for each individual athlete.

Which of these breakdowns sounds like it has been prepared for months, and which of them appears to have been thrown together in the 24 hours following a big announcement? Which school did what isn’t the issue. The difference in the schools in the issue.

The difference is two-fold. One is the pace of the announcement, and the other is the quality of the announcement. Credit is due to every school that has made a public comment so far, although why couldn’t all twelve schools have done that? The rest of social media did. And why did 75% of the schools that did wait until a day later? Waiting to say “we approve” is a bad look.

In terms of quality, some commented with a fully developed plan, or at least released action, while others just commented. This illustrates some programs that were proactive and others were reactive, which likely has more significant and longer implications as everyone moves into the NLI world.

It’s not a great look that only 33% of MWC teams have made any kind of comment over 24 hours after the announcement. And only half of those, or 16.6% of schools, made comments announcing what they were doing to take action to help players in their endeavors. Out of the remaining two, one or .083% of the conference seemed ready for the NCAA’s announcement. It doesn’t matter if that team was Boise State, Fresno State, New Mexico, or Wyoming. While every other school may have things in the works or make announcements on Friday, they are already behind the curve. In the age of social media, what matters is being proactive. Being a few days behind the big news is like making a splash when everyone is making waves. No one notices the splashes two days after everyone is fixated on the huge waves.