Andrew Petcash: Name, Image, and Likeness in College Athletics

In the coming months, Game Plan will embark on an ongoing Q&A series titled "Redefining the Student-Athlete in The New World of College Sports" where we aim to delve into the important questions for this moment in college athletics. Here at Game Plan, we are dedicated to guiding 100% of athletes through 100% of their journey. From understanding their experience to helping them capitalize on their opportunities, we are here to serve athletes everywhere.

Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) has been one of the largest and most rapidly changing areas of the student-athlete experience. After years of discussion on whether athletes should be able to make money off of their brand, it became a reality in 2021. Andrew Petcash, Founder of Profluence and Former D1 basketball player at Boston University explains: “This was inevitable. First – I think it's overdue by at least 20 years. Once you started seeing coaches make millions of dollars, how could you not pay some of the football and basketball players? And where we are today is not the endpoint. What is happening in college sports right now will simply get pushed downstream into high school as well. There is just so much money in play.” We are just being introduced to the world of NIL and must explore what that means for the entire sports ecosystem.

The ripple effect that NIL will have on the athletic community will impact organizations and athletes everywhere. When thinking about the impact of NIL on a broader scale, Petcash looks across all levels of sport. “Let’s use the NFL and NBA as an example - They increase the value of college sports because if you can play in college – at the Division I level – you now have a chance to play in the pros. The goal is simple: If you can play at Georgia or any Division I school, you can make a million dollars.” This is an important point, especially for the youth sports model. As millions of dollars are on the line for high-performing college athletes, what becomes the new college environment? Petcash continues, “Now, you see a lot of new programs and institutions developed around the high school space. It might look like this: We are going to pay a million dollars for a QB at Georgia. Georgia doesn't want to see him play against his local teams in his area in the middle of Pennsylvania. They want to see him compete against the top players in the country at a high school level, so they can accurately judge who should be getting a million dollars. It's just pushing the commercialization downstream. But there's a big lag effect. So this will take five or ten years.” Although NIL has had the most extreme impact on the college space, it has started a ripple effect that will be crucial to follow over the coming years.

With the emergence of NIL, there are numerous possibilities for how college athletics can operate. For high-revenue sports such as basketball and football, there can be multiple external organizations providing resources for athletes at a certain school. When discussing the question: would a university have a team that would administer the compensation to the athlete from start to finish? Petcash responded, “Yes. Look at the pros again, say the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have everything in-house: scouting, salary - everything in one. I don't think you need agents because, just like in the NFL, the agents are outside of the organizations. I think the real problem right now is there's sometimes 4 different entities making moves for one school. The college teams should operate more like a pro team. That might require legislation.” Then the question is, would this include players being under contracts? Petcash continues, “Yes. And, at the same time, you hear horror stories about players signing contracts and never getting paid. You also hear stories of kids getting paid, and then transferring and getting paid again, so they double dip. That's why it needs to all have an administration in one place. Maybe a player signs a two-year deal. And if you want to get out of it, you have to buy yourself out of it.” Structure in college athletics is going to be an important topic to track and might be a way athletes and organizations protect themselves and operate.

Lastly, not ALL sports are being impacted at the same level. Individual athletes have done extremely well in NIL across a variety of sports, but what does this look like for sports without the same revenue as football or basketball? Petcash is concerned about basketball and football straying away and what that would mean for other sports. He shares, “We need a crystal ball. I think that's what we are all looking for. We don't know, because there's a lot of different things that could play out, and there might be things that in hindsight were so obvious. But it's just hard to see right now. In the long term, if football and basketball start to stray away because that's where a lot of the money is, then the other sports are going to get hurt.” It is hard to know exactly where the industry is headed this early in the NIL era and that’s what makes these discussions about the industry so valuable. One thing is certain: NIL is just beginning to make its mark.

Continue to follow along as we talk with University Administrators, Athletic Directors, Coaches, Student-Athletes, and unique experts and advisors about the changing landscape of college athletics. Give the material a read, tell us what you think, and we look forward to connecting.