Big Ten football coaches enthusiastic about name, image, and likeness

At Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis, football coaches showed their support for the new NCAA guidelines.


Jerod Ringwald

Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck walks off the field during day one of Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Thursday, July 22.

Chloe Peterson, Summer Sports Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — Minnesota head football coach P.J. Fleck is enthusiastic about the prospect of student-athletes around the country profiting from name, image, and likeness.

Especially in Minneapolis. 

“I’m fired up. I’m fired up about name, image, and likeness,” Fleck said at the Big Ten Football Media Days. “Now, there’s no Minnesota state law yet. So we have to be able to follow the NCAA, and obviously University of Minnesota guidelines. But this is awesome that players get to now benefit off their name, image, and likeness. This was coming, we all knew that. And being from the urban area like we are, with the major corporations that we have, there’s only going to benefit our student athletes, and we’ve got numerous student athletes already benefiting from them. I think that’s a really positive thing we’re seeing moving forward.”

Minneapolis hosts 18 Fortune 500 companies, giving Minnesota student-athletes plenty of opportunities to partner with companies around the city.

But schools in smaller cities, like Iowa City or Lincoln, players will have to rely on the town’s passion for the team.

And local restaurants have delivered.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, Runzas — a local sandwich shop — offered free food to the first 100 athletes that promoted the Runza rewards app. Nebraska tight end Austin Allen was one of the first to take advantage of the deal.

Hawkeye football running back Tyler Goodson, wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr., and defensive back Dane Belton held an autograph-signing event at Graze — an Iowa City-based restaurant — on July 18. 

Goodson is planning another autograph event at the Airliner, a local Iowa City bar, on July 24.

“I’m excited for NIL, it’s going to change the landscape of college football, probably college athletics in general, but anything that benefits our student athletes, I’m really excited about,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said. “I think Nebraska is uniquely positioned to take advantage of it, just because of the passion surrounding Nebraska football. We’re the only show in town, we have fans all over the country, and all our eyes are on us and in the state of Nebraska. I think there’s gonna be a lot of people that will want to partner with our players and help give them some advantages.”

But Big Ten football coaches are also worried about their athletes falling victim to potential scams. On July 1, the first day athletes could capitalize off NIL, a bevy of players partnered with YOKE Gaming — a platform for people to play video games with their favorite athletes.

Less than a week later, lawyers took to Twitter to warn athletes — under contract, YOKE gaming can make copies of and distribute video game experiences without paying the athlete any royalties. Student-athletes also cannot record or publish any of the content they make on YOKE gaming.

“I just told the guys in our team meeting we had [about NIL], ‘So listen, you gotta understand that this is a job. and use the right way.’” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ‘“Use all the resources we have around you, including your family, make sure that you get locked into smart deals, great deals. And you also understand the big picture here. A lot of you guys will be NFL players, let’s not put your market level down here so be really patient, walk through it the right way.’”

For schools without state laws regarding NIL — like Iowa and Minnesota — it was up to the universities to put in place policies and education for their student-athletes. 

It’s a new process for the universities, coaches, and student-athletes alike.

“Nobody a month ago really understood it,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re now starting to see it, and it’s gonna be a huge learning curve I think for everybody. The obvious things are that first and foremost you want you don’t want your players to be taken advantage of for not treating them fairly, especially when it comes to finances. That’s really important.”

Iowa announced its new NIL education program, FLIGHT, on June 25.

“The big thing we have to continue to do is you got to keep adding education,” Fleck said. “Because with the name, image, and likeness come those things like taxes, right, scams, tight, agents. We have to continue to educate the student athlete. That’s what we already have built into our program.”

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