Football, Sports, WVU Sports

WVU football program attempting to embrace NIL ruling

MORGANTOWN — As soon as the phrase “Name, Image and Likeness” began to surface as the next progressive step for student-athletes, WVU football coach Neal Brown made sure the Mountaineers were ahead of the curve.

“This is something we have been preparing for within our program for probably over the last six months,” Brown said in April 2020. “We’ve got a really good plan — an educational plan with how we’re going to deal with it within our program. We’ve got a partnership we’re going to announce here in the next week or so that we’re excited about.”

Brown brought in Jeremy Darlow, a branding consultant with INFLCR, a social media data-driven company which helps athletes use their social media platforms to promote themselves. WVU was the first program to use INFLCR, which now represents over 1,000 programs across all sports nationwide.

For over a year, Brown has tried to prepare for when NIL, which allows athletes to profit off their own name, to become official, and that day was Thursday. Players across the nation across all sports began to announce on social media their partnerships with brands and businesses.

“At West Virginia, we have been preparing for NIL for a long time,” Brown tweeted Thursday. “Through providing content, education and technology, we have been investing in our athletes to prepare them for this opportunity. Today is a pivotal moment for college athletes and we couldn’t be more excited to see them capitalize on their own brands.”

There is still some uncertainly, as quarterback Jarret Doege said Wednesday.

“We’ve talked a lot when it first started coming out,” he said. “You’re thinking about we can make money, but no one knew exactly what we could do and what we couldn’t do. Coach Brown has done a good job of teaching us what’s smart and what’s not smart to do. They brought in some people that have talked about contracts, taxes, investing planning, so that helped a lot.”

The first WVU athlete to publicly announce a deal was linebacker Exree Loe, who is partnered with Yoke Gaming, which allows fans to play video games with their favorite athletes. Linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo said he will be a part of the first WVU athlete podcast, which is coming soon. Wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton is working with MealMe, a good delivery service that specializes in healthier options.

Jalen Bridges, of the men’s basketball team, will contribute to Stock Risers, a national recruiting tool for high school players. He will write a blog about how career at WVU.

The football team is using the hashtag #PEAK, which is in connection with the INFLCR partnership.

Several other athletes, including football players Devell Washington and Dante Stills, as well as men’s basketball players Gabe Osabouhien and Taz Sherman, said they are interested in working with brands and companies.

WVU, or any school, cannot help athletes with negotiations or work with them on specific deals.

There is more to the NIL ruling athletes can take advantage of, including starting their own business and selling their own merchandise, selling autographs and hosting youth camps.

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