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UPDATED: Mizzou Athletics unveils new NIL program partnership with signing of SB 718 amendment

Missouri’s NIL program is getting a revamp, and includes an ongoing partnership with the Missouri School of Journalism, School of Law, and the Trulaske College of Business, among other things.

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2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Gymnastics Championship - Raleigh Regional
Yay, SB 718!
Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Thursday was a pretty momentous day for the state of Missouri in the NIL landscape. State lawmakers signed an amendment to Missouri’s name, image and likeness law (SB 718). The press release details:

The state’s NIL law has been amended to permit members of the University, including coaches, to assist in seeking out third-party NIL deals. Coaches and University officials cannot receive compensation for this work, nor serve as representation to student-athletes nor attend meetings between the student-athletes and the third-party. Additionally, Mizzou Athletics will be required to provide yearly financial development education to its student-athletes.

“We are grateful to our state legislators for their continued support of our student-athletes,” Director of Athletics Desireé Reed-Francois said. “As an institution, we will help our Tigers maximize NIL opportunities within the framework of the updated legislation and NCAA rules. We look forward to collaborating with our University partners and providing a new NIL-related educational curriculum which is unique to Mizzou.”

So how is Mizzou able to take advantage of this in the NIL landscape? Basically, because Missouri will be ahead of the curve as this legislation passes— most states have no permitted institutional involvement right now. They will now have a specialized department led by a yet-to-be hired Assistant Athletics Director for NIL to work with corporate sales and industry leaders. They’ll bring in corporations to meet with the student-athletes, meaning the athletes won’t have to approach the companies themselves for help with deals.

Here are a few examples:

  • Mizzou could now feasibly bring in reps from a local car dealership and have them present a deal to the student-athletes. Because many other states aren’t allowed to have their institutions involved right now, the Tigers are actually ahead of the game.
  • (from the press release) Topps and Fanatics chose Missouri as one of their partner schools for a first-ever NIL trading card program, and customized Nike jerseys for current football players will be available for purchase with the athlete compensated for each sale.

With the implementation of this new legislation, collectives like Mizzou’s Advancing Missouri Athletes and others nationwide may eventually go away (though it appears AMA was just unveiled in connection with the bill signing). They really aren’t sustainable, as there is no tax benefit, and the individuals contributing don’t necessarily know where their money is going. Enter Opendorse’s new school-specific model, which I discussed in the Links on Wednesday, and was also brought up in the new press release.

Opendorse has revamped their system to include school-specific marketplaces that will facilitate fans with brands, donors and sponsors to directly support student athletes. From their release, “School specific marketplaces will empower athletic departments to maximize NIL success for student-athletes by mobilizing fan bases and local organizations. Supporters will have a single, streamlined platform to easily find their favorite athletes, offer deals, and complete payments.”

Now to my favorite part, the collaboration piece, as it relates to my place of employment.

The University has also unveiled a new partnership between athletics, the Missouri School of Journalism, School of Law, Trulaske College of Business and Griggs Innovators Nexus which “will be a foundational piece of the Mizzou’s NIL program moving forward.” The first event in the newly-created CEO Program, which will be held in mid-July, will be a three-day program for Mizzou’s student athletes where they’ll learn - among other things - about social media training, understanding the algorithm, content creation (how to tell your story), marketing strategies, entrepreneurship, the art of negotiations and understanding contracts. This is just the beginning, as in the future, they’ll continue to collaborate on experiential learning opportunities for student-athletes.

The collaboration idea between athletics and the J-School specifically was lightly floated about month ago, but really ramped up last week when senior athletic department officials Rachel Blunt and Tami Chievous, along with faculty athletics rep Pam Bruzina, met with some members of the J-School, including the undergraduate dean and assistant professor/former longtime athletics staffer Kat Lucchesi, among others.

I spoke with Lucchesi, who is the course coordinator for News Content Creation and the instructor for Social Media and Audience Strategy in the School of Journalism, and also serves on the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee (IAC) as a faculty rep, about the partnership. As a former longtime athletics staffer who spent many years working with Mizzou Football on storytelling and content creation, as well as with Oregon State where she served as their Social Media Director, I thought Kat would have a unique point of view of how this could benefit everyone.

“I’m excited to really teach them how social media really works, and how they can make sure that the content they want to be seen shows up. What are some ways they can strategically get their message out to businesses that may want to invest in them? Having a large following doesn’t mean they’re getting the engagement to hit the algorithm like it should,” Lucchesi said. “That’s what I plan to teach and I think that’s going to hopefully be a big benefit to them.”

She added that the student athletes learning about engagement could help when looking for NIL deals, even if they’re not the most prominent athletes. They would be able to go a business they’re interested in and strategically point out that this (product) is something they’re excited about and can reach the people they want to reach.

Regardless of sport, teams are not made up of one-size-fits-all personalities. These student-athletes have unique backstories and interests and need guidance on how to share who they are outside of the field, court, or pool, etc. It would honestly would be great to see everyone have a chance to benefit from this newfound knowledge about how to use their platforms.

As for other details of the program and ideas moving forward, that’s under lock and key for now, but I’m interested to see what comes of this.

I’m really excited about this, y’all. It seems to me that this partnership, and specifically with their collaboration with the J-School, could help with recruiting of student-athletes and their parents. Even if they decide to pursue other areas of study while at the University, the staff being able to tell recruits that they’ll learn from one of the best journalism schools in the country how they can form their brand, build their audience, etc. is a powerful tool. “In general, I think having this type of partnership is awesome because it’s exposing a bit of storytelling to student athletes that they might not get in other classes,” Lucchesi said.

Sign me up.