Athletes and coaches navigating new world of Name, Image and Likeness policy

College Sports

(WFXR) — This is the first school year that NCAA student athletes can capitalize on their name, image and likeness (NIL). It’s only been a few months since the policy was put in place and while some have already taken advantage of the opportunity, coaches are urging players to proceed with caution.

“Certainly it’s uncharted waters. I think there’s a lot of good that can come from this,” Virginia Tech head football coach Justin Fuente said. “I think there’s a lot of bad that can come from this action too, if we’re not careful.”

It’s a new world of opportunities for student-athletes, who can now make some money after years of strict rules put in place while schools and conferences made millions off their performances.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for young people to grow and develop and learn how to manage finance and business while going to school and playing the game at the elite level,” UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

Many have already capitalized, like Olympic gold medalist and Auburn gymnast Suni Lee, who is now a contestant on this season of “Dancing with the Stars.” Virginia Tech football’s Tre Turner and Braxton Burmeister have also signed product endorsement deals.

However, others are wading into the water rather than diving in, such as UVA’s Joey Blount, who is affiliated with Barstool Sports.

“It’s really new to everybody. No one has a direct, oh I did this so you should try that,” Blount said. “It’s kinda new, everyone is trying their own thing. Whether it’s food, clothing, apparel. Anything you can wrap your mind around.”

Hokies softball pitcher Keely Rochard took advantage of the new rules recently by appearing as a guest speaker at a meeting of the Roanoke Valley Sports Club.

“I’m definitely open to it,” Rochard said. “It’s also kind of scary at the same time because we don’t really know about it and I don’t want to like break a rule. There’s so many things that people don’t really know.”

But coaches have a word of caution as their players look to make the most off their individual talent.

“Could it go the other way? Could greed, could exploitation?” Mendenhall said. “You start being honest and see a way to take advantage of young people, could that happen?”

Fuente supports athletes profiting from their talent.

“I just don’t want us to lose sight of what’s important,” Fuente said. “I don’t want us to lose sight of the long-term game here with our young people. That’s their education.”

For Tech softball coach Pete D’Amour, his message is pretty simple.

“Go make as much money as you can and just represent our program in the best light possible,” D’Amour said. “That’s it.”

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