Brevin Galloway’s “Brevin Galloway” brand is open for business.
“If any company wants to hit me up, DM me on my Instagram. I’m down for whatever,” the Boston College men’s basketball guard said. “I love talking, I love communicating, so if anybody wants to get in touch with me, they know where to find me.”
Until last month, NCAA student-athletes could not be paid to endorse a product, sign an autograph, run a clinic, or otherwise cash in on their name, image or likeness — NIL — lest they run afoul of NCAA’s strict compliance regulations.
Then the rule makers changed the rules.
On July 1, the NCAA reluctantly granted permission for student-athletes to monetize their fame when it changed its rules, saying an athlete wouldn’t be suspended or lose eligibility if they take money in exchange for a sponsorship from an outside party. The rule change, which came as several states were about to enact laws of their own allowing athletes to make money, only applies on the individual level.
And before the NIL era was a week old, Galloway, a graduate transfer from the College of Charleston with about 75,000 Instagram followers, said he and his agent had received 40 to 50 DMs from assorted companies and that he had finalized three deals: two restaurants and a melatonin aromatherapy diffuser used as a sleep aid. Several more are in the works, he said.
“I’m looking at this as long term. I want to make sure I present myself and allow myself to have the image where I’m not just a college athlete or a social media influencer, I want to be like a person that can go into the future and make business deals,” Galloway said. “Eventually the ball’s going to stop bouncing one day and I’m going to have something to fall back on if I don’t coach or if I don’t go into that type of field.
“Obviously basketball and school will come first, but I will spend a good deal of time in this area and try to set myself up for a good future,” he said.
While Galloway’s experience will not be shared by the majority of New England college athletes — most don’t play Division 1 basketball in a Power 5 conference — athletic departments from all three divisions are preparing themselves and their student-athletes for whatever opportunities emerge.
Nationwide, student-athletes still cannot engage in pay-to-play or pay-to-be-recruited deals, but the NCAA said schools should establish their own policies, guided by their own policies and their home state’s legislation.
Massachusetts has not passed NIL legislation and passage is not imminent. Schools such as Boston University are drafting guidelines that should be finalized by the end of the month; UMass Boston is in a wait-and-see mode before it even begins creating a framework.
Northeastern has completed its initial set of guidelines, as has Boston College, which created a concept called “SOAR,” a four-pillared (brand cultivation, compliance, education, and support) program designed to not only educate its student-athletes about NIL but also encourage them to tap into its own network of teachers and alumni as they mull offers or initiate their own offers.
“It’s certainly an important time — we just have to figure out if it’s a cataclysmic event or if it’s just a watershed time,” said Drew Marrochello, director of athletics at Boston University. “I personally think it’s a watershed time. We’ve been preparing for this for a while, as everyone has.”
For student-athletes, NIL opportunities put them into an arena once reserved for athletic department marketers and administrators.
“This is a step in the right direction as far as being treated as adults, understanding your value as a student-athlete and what you can bring to the world outside of just being an athlete,” said Taylor Soule, a rising senior forward on the BC women’s basketball team. “After LeBron James and that whole ‘they just want us to shut up and dribble,’ I think it’s really important for student-athletes to have an opportunity to show the world we are more than what people see on TV.”
Soule sees student-athletes as having the option of trading in their skillset and social media followings for the best monetary deal they can strike and/or searching for opportunities that don’t rely only on their athleticism.
“Make sure the people around you have your best interests at heart and that what you’re doing aligns with the type of person you are and how you want to be viewed in the world,” said Soule, who has nearly 2,500 followers on Instagram and has yet to find a deal. “For me, I will take this opportunity and run with it in a positive way: I’m Taylor Soule the Entrepreneur slash New Balance Athlete slash basketball player at the end.”
Like Soule and Galloway, Alec Lindstrom has signed on as a Barstool Athlete, a popular if still undefined NIL-related status on the Barstool Sports social media platform. Lindstrom, the center on the Boston College football team, has nearly 1,600 followers on Instagram as well as about 1,300 followers on his earnestly goofy food-review account.
He said he does not intend to use his NIL freedom to make money as much as to mesh his academic and career interests in leadership and management with his personal interests in food, food reviewing, and MMA.
“It’s very fun and it’s just a start, hopefully for my football career and after, it gets much bigger than what I have now,” Lindstrom said. “And for all athletes, I think it’s awesome. If you think of people like a Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel, they were huge in college then they kind of died off. That was their prime time. Everyone knew who they were, everyone wanted to be associated with them.”
As pleased as some Massachusetts student-athletes sound about their newfound opportunities, the path forward is uncharted.
“Just because an opportunity presents itself to them doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good opportunity to get involved in, these are things that are going to follow them through their career and might not be something 10, 15 years down the road that they’re thrilled with that they they made this decision,” said Carly Pariseau, associate athletic director for compliance and student supports services at BC. “I had a student athlete reach out to me yesterday and say, ‘I just want to confirm that we’re not allowed to be involved with any type of CBD product,’ and I confirmed that that’s not something we’re allowed to do at this point.”
Mandatory education sessions about NIL, monitoring and disclosing deals as well as sessions on financial literacy, personal branding, and contracts are part of the SOAR setup.
Conforming to BC’s Jesuit mission is also involved, Pariseau said, who noted that the SOAR language is consistent with what’s already in the student handbook and pre-existing student conduct standard. “It’s limited to gambling and underage alcohol. If somebody is of age there might be some flexibility for them to be involved in an alcohol company.”
“This is new territory, not only for student-athletes but we’re also coming back to a new normal,” said Darlene Gordon, interim director of athletics at UMass Boston. “The way we left things prior to the pandemic is not going to be the same as when we come back in the fall. This is all new landscaping and we’re all going to be trying to figure this out and make sure that our students can safely navigate this. That’s my biggest concern: how can we help our students navigate this safely?”
“For us it’s making sure we can promote and support them in this new era of NIL just like we support their academic and athletic initiatives,” said Jim Madigan, athletic director at Northeastern. “We’re looking at being a partner and assisting our student-athletes, not to be a roadblock or an obstacle by any means.”