I recently caught up with former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback and Shoreview, Minn. native Adam Weber to discuss the groundbreaking Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy that went into effect for the NCAA on July 1st.
Weber was a four-year starter for the Gophers from 2007-2010. He still holds the school records for career passing yardage (10,917) and career passing touchdowns (72). Following his collegiate career, Weber spent three years playing for the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2011-2013. He spent the 2014 season playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
Weber returned to the University of Minnesota as a graduate assistant for the 2015 and 2016 seasons on head coach Tracey Claeys’ staff. Then in 2017, Weber connected with his former offensive coordinator from 2009, Jedd Fisch, and joined the UCLA Bruins staff as an offensive analyst. After spending three years working as a consultant in Chicago, Weber recently returned to Minneapolis to further pursue a career in sales and co-hosts a podcast called The Sideline Grind.
What was your initial reaction when you heard/read the news from last week of the Division 1 Board of Directors approving an interim Name, Image, and Likeness policy, thus allowing college athletes to start earning compensation through endorsements?
I was not surprised by the decision. The debate on whether college student-athletes should be paid for their NIL has been around for some time. It was only a matter of time until something was passed.
Considering that the NCAA typically generates over $1 billion in annual revenue, is this sort of policy long overdue for student-athletes?
Yes, for me it was not whether student-athletes (SA) should be paid for the NIL but rather how they should be paid. The NCAA has operated under the veil of amateurism when in fact they monetized the system and made large sums of money along the way.
Having been on both sides of the fence as a marquee Big Ten quarterback, as well as a former graduate assistant for the University of Minnesota and staff member for UCLA, how will this NIL policy affect the NCAA landscape in comparison to what you experienced?
For SA, it is one more thing to consider when choosing a college. I would recommend [high school] athletes to consider the market the college is in and what programs the program offers to help promote your brand. As a coach, it can be a blessing and a curse. Allowing SA to be paid fairly for their NIL gives you another tool to help recruit and retain top talent. On the other hand, it is another component to recruiting you have to focus on. Now you have to sell the school, program, AND marketing opportunities.
Even though 27 states have already passed legislation surrounding NIL — with another four states currently in the legislative process — Minnesota has yet to pass NIL legislation. Is the University of Minnesota at a competitive disadvantage if their student-athletes aren’t able to lawfully accept NIL endorsements while others across the country cash in?
Yes. The competitive landscape of recruiting and retaining talent is only getting harder. Adding NIL to the mix will only set MN apart, and not in a good way. To keep up with the Joneses, you have to be able to offer similar incentives.
Hypothetically, if the state of Minnesota had legislation already in place and the NCAA approved a NIL policy while you were in the midst of your playing career for the Golden Gophers, how would you have gone about this NIL landscape?
I believe it would have been a distraction but I would have explored all options. I would have hoped the school would have someone who is experienced in branding and marketing who would have helped navigate options and help bring opportunities to the table so I could focus on college and playing football.
How do you anticipate this NIL policy affecting the recruiting process for both the universities and student-athletes?
It will have a large impact on recruiting. I would anticipate some of the first questions parents and [high school] athletes will have will pertain to branding and marketing. “What can this school offer that others can’t?” I would hope that decisions are still made around the college and program. However, NIL will start playing a larger role.
If/when Minnesota passes NIL legislation, do you foresee NIL endorsement opportunities helping or hurting the University of Minnesota’s chances to retain some of the top in-state talent?
I believe it can only help. MSP is a large market, unlike other college towns in the Big Ten. I feel, if done correctly, MN will be able to compete with most major programs around the country (in regards to their marketability).
Lastly, what does the NCAA look like in five years after everyone has settled into this seismic NIL shift?
Billion-dollar question. If the NCAA can pivot and adjust to the new landscape, they can stay relevant. If they pull a Blockbuster and refuse to adapt, they will be left behind.