In the first six months of NIL, we saw a flood of deals and the rules were put to the test. The next year stands to deliver even more change and evolution to the industry.

Here are our predictions for what 2022 could hold for NIL.

Federal Legislation Will Happen

At least seven NIL-related bills have been introduced in Congress since March of 2019. Not one has gotten past committee, but that should change in 2022.

As NIL deals become more complex, the very loose framework of rules and “guardrails” that govern NIL at the NCAA level will be tested.

As this happens, stakeholders and lobbyists put more pressure on lawmakers to come up with a single framework governing athletes across the country. 

Without universal rules, we’ll continue to see players bear the consequences of deals that the NCAA believes violate its “guardrails.”

More Players Will Be Punished for Non-Compliant Deals

With the emerging NIL industry and vague governing rules, it was only a matter of time before athletes started being punished for non-compliance.

Richard Washington, star guard for San Jose State’s basketball team, was the first casualty. Washington signed with a non-certified agent and took a NIL deal. 

He received a season-long suspension despite not knowing he was violating any rules.

Jeff Goodman tweet announcing Richard Washington suspension for NIL violations.

Illinois star Kofi Cockburn received a three-game suspension for selling merchandise during the off season after deciding to come back to school rather than going to the NBA.

As both athletes and businesses explore the boundaries of what the rules allow, 2022 will inevitably and regrettably see more deals that end in consequences for the athlete. 

Incoming Freshmen With Huge Deals

In a sign of things to come, star high school QB Quinn Ewers skipped his senior year to enroll in college early and signed multiple NIL deals (one worth $1.4 million).

Tweet announcing Quinn Ewers GT Sports Marketing Deal for $1.4 million

When she was 15, future UCONN women’s basketball sensation Azzi Fudd attended Steph Curry’s camp. Shortly after NIL rules went into effect, Curry’s company offered her a NIL deal.

Tweet announcing Azzi Fudd NIL deal with Steph Curry

Had NIL been legal back then, she likely would have had a deal before she even started college. 

NIL Deals with High-Profile Academies

Schools like Mater Dei and St.John Bosco in California belong to a category of private high schools (academies) that recruit and develop young athletic talent. 

Businesses looking to snag future college stars will increasingly look to these schools as a rich environment for lucrative NIL deals.

However, this currently isn’t a level playing field. Many states explicitly prohibit high school athletes from accepting NIL deals.

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More Creative NIL Deals

We see deals that go beyond your typical social media or traditional advertising campaigns every day.

Olympic gold medalist Gable Stevenson signed a deal with WWE to begin training for a professional wrestling career before graduation.

Mercedes Benz created a brand ambassador program for student-athletes to help promote its new EQS electric vehicle. 

Bevin Galloway meeting with Mercedes Benz representative in front of new EQS vehicle

Miami QB D’Eriq King and UConn star Azzi Fudd signed deals with BioSteel Nutrition that grant the athletes equity in the company in exchange for their partnership.

As companies become more comfortable partnering with college athletes, we expect them to also get far more creative.

The road ahead

The NIL space is constantly evolving and the future is bright. With better guidance and more activity, this new industry will become even more stable and lucrative in 2022.

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