New ‘Dinkytown Marketplace’ helps Gopher athletes ‘monetize’ themselves

Photo by Charles Hallman Jeremiah Carter

Since July 2021, Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) is how college players can monetize themselves. This is thanks to former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and 19 others who successfully sued the NCAA in the late 2000s for violating antitrust laws by not allowing athletes to share in revenues generated from use of their names and images on video games.

Thus far there is no federal NIL legislation. In other words, it can be likened to the Wild, Wild West for boosters and influencers. Furthermore, the NCAA has really been pretty cagey on NIL guidelines, leaving it up to the colleges and universities.

But this fall, the governing body introduced an interim NIL policy. It didn’t create any new rules, but supposedly this will help schools have a better idea of what types of deals student-athletes can seek.

Overall, colleges and universities can’t be involved in servicing, negotiating, or facilitating NIL deals for players. Schools, however, can offer legal advice to athletes on contracts, so long as this service is also available to all students. 

Also, schools must adhere to state NIL laws, if applicable. And some schools still don’t allow their players to seek NIL deals.  

Last week Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle announced updates to his athletic department’s support for NIL, including the launching of the Minnesota NIL Marketplace. It includes currently over 100 Gopher players from various sports who are available to fans and businesses “to connect, formulate a NIL agreement and transmit payment,” said the Dec. 21 release.

Such services as shoutouts (as low as $10), five-minute video chats ($50-100) and endorsements ($100-150) are available depending on the particular athlete.

“Before NIL, it was zero percent of my time. Since then, it’s been about 70% of my time,” admitted Jeremiah Carter, Minnesota’s compliance director. He sat down with the MSR and discussed all things NIL, which he quickly stressed is everchanging.

The St. Paul native, a former Gopher football player (1998-2002) with two seasons as a graduate assistant coach, Carter has been in his present position since 2015. Prior to that, he worked six years in various roles at the NCAA in academic and membership affairs. Carter also serves as the school’s primary liaison to the NCAA Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement and Recruiting and Personnel Issues.

“We have watched this really evolve and change,” noted Carter on NIL, whose deals can range from million-dollar setups to in-kind contracts and everything else in between. 

“We’ve seen the majority of things that University of Minnesota student-athletes have been involved in have been things on social media,” stated Carter.  “That can be anything from an in-kind deal, like a local business is looking to attract more customers. They will, instead of giving a student-athlete cash, they say, ‘You can have $200 worth of food at a restaurant for promoting our restaurant.’

“Our student athletes’ social media following is a group that is oftentimes very hard for advertisers to reach because it’s younger folks,” he pointed out.

This fall, Dinkytown Athletes was launched as the first NIL collective to support U of M student-athletes. It is not connected to the university, Carter stressed, but the venture is dedicated to creating opportunities for Gopher players to connect with local fans, donors and businesses.   

Carter said his office has been working with Dinkytown “from the very inception to make sure that they were setting that up in a way that is permissible under NCAA rules.”

In the long run, Carter maintained, the NIL is good for student-athletes. His job is to ensure that the Minnesota players are protected. “I’m going to advocate for [them] and I don’t mind putting in the extra time to make sure that we’re able to open up those avenues for our student-athletes.”

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