July 1, 2021 ushered in a new wave of opportunities for athletes at the Division I level, as players around the country learned that they could now benefit from their name, image and likeness.
This new law, simply known as NIL, is still in its infancy but it has given student athletes at Marist opportunities they may not have seen otherwise.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Dwayne Menders currently has three NIL deals; one with Barstool Athletics, Elite Athletic Gear, and EnterPRIZE Sports, a company who pledges to increase exposure and give media resources to their signed athletes.
“When I first heard about this, I was very happy,” Menders recalls. “Because as a Division I athlete we have an image of ourselves and for us to have an interest [from companies] is a big thing.”
There is still some work that goes into getting a deal. The NCAA has multiple rules that every athlete of a Division I program must follow. Associate Athletic Director Harrison Baker is helping Marist athletes navigate the deals available to them by meeting with all of them to go over some expectations.
“We went over our draft of our policy and guidelines,” Baker said. “Giving them an overview of what they can do, what they can’t do, and what they should look out for.”
Baker explained that their current draft of the college’s policy is rather long and up in the air because while each school can have their own rules, each state can also make their own NIL guidelines. New York has not yet come out with their legislation which has created some challenges. The earliest the college can hear from the state is January, but Baker assures that every athlete will have the opportunity to partner with companies if they so choose while the legal stuff gets finalized.
“Right now they need to be aware of compliance issues,” he said to the Marist athletes. “So those are things like tax implications and financial aid complications, or international students who could have visa issues so, it’s a lot of protecting them from jumping into deals that could have ramifications outside of that. We want to protect them from harming their eligibility.”
Since the July 1 ruling, many Red Foxes have looked to sign deals. Many of them have chosen Barstool as a company to partner with. Menders, as well as women’s soccer senior midfielder Abby Murphy, men’s lacrosse senior attackman Jamison Embury and women’s lacrosse’s senior defender Sheridan DeVito are a few of the many college athletes that are working with Barstool.
“I think it’s something super cool, to be honest,” Embury says. “Just to be given a bigger spotlight and also for more opportunities for athletes, I think that’s really cool.”
He continued by sharing that when Barstool announced they would partner with athletes, it would be something that was mutually beneficial to both the athlete and the company.
DeVito agreed, and added “It is great that a lot of athletes from smaller Division I schools like ours are able to get a little bit more noticed and it’s something that just makes you feel like you have accomplishments and you’re still seen as, as athletic as someone else. It makes us feel like we’re on an even playing field and get the recognition any other athlete would.”
Marist has been fully supportive of their athletes finding deals. Baker notes that the college has always had a motto of allowing their student athletes to have freedom to do what they choose. He cited how most schools have a social media policy about what their athletes can post in terms of their photos, however, at Marist that is not the case.
“I am excited to see who our student athletes partner with and who wants to do deals with them,” he says.
Murphy notes the importance of setting a precedent with the deals the athletes of her class make. As they are the first wave to have this opportunity, she hopes to encourage the players younger than her to make the right decisions with the chance they have been given.
“We have a lot of influence on the younger generations coming up,” Murphy says. “It’s all going to be so different.”
Menders notes that he hopes NIL extends to Division II and III programs, and that more companies come out and endorse college athletes. “There are a lot of student athletes out here who are trying to make money off their name,” he says.
The future of college athletics is going to be different than what we know it to be now. The athletes at Marist are the first generation who benefit from NIL. The future is unpredictable, but each one is excited for the journey to continue.
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics