IU partners with sports tech company on NIL tools

Athletes at Indiana will soon have access to digital tools to help them grow a social media presence.

IU’s athletic department announced Wednesday a three-year partnership with the sports technology company Opendorse, which comes as universities prepare for looming NCAA rule changes that will allow student-athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL).

The Opendorse “Ready Program” will be one of the first steps in training athletes at IU on how to promote their personal brands. The product promises individualized assessments of athletes’ social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, helping schedule posts to maximize their reach, flagging potentially “harmful” posts, and comparing a student-athletes’ social media performance compared to others on campus.

The program also seeks to educate student-athletes on their rights in regards to NIL and ways to “grow their NIL value, and a plan for building their personal brand while on campus.”

IU athletes will not be obligated to use Opendorse services, though it’s being touted as an important step as student-athletes prepare for the onset of NIL legislation. The NCAA is slated to adopt NIL rules in January 2021, and college athletes may be able to profit off of their likeness as soon as the ’21-22 school year.

“The NIL rights movement opens the door for Indiana Athletics to provide the students in our program with life skills that will prove valuable well beyond their time on campus,” IU athletic director Scott Dolson said in a release. “When these changes come, we have to be prepared to educate and assist our student-athletes with the best possible resources.”

Opendorse was started by two former Nebraska football players, Blake Lawrence and Adi Kunalic. In fact, Nebraska’s athletic department announced a deal to use the “Ready Program” back in March. Michigan, Clemson, and Jackson State have also partnered with the company.

In Opendorse’s FAQ, the company touts a digital presence as the leading factor in determining an athlete’s NIL earning potential.

“Thus, the Ready Program is heavily focused on ensuring our student-athletes use the time between now and the moment the NIL rules change to build a presentable social media presence and a valuable personal brand,” the FAQ states.

The company says more than 12,000 athletes use its service, including professionals Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, Alex Morgan, Patrick Mahomes, Luka Doncic, Candace Parker, Conor McGregor, and David Ortiz. It also promotes Pepsi, EA Sports, Xbox, Playstation and Old Spice as businesses that use Opendorse to build endorsement campaigns with pro athletes.

In Wednesday’s release, Lawrence said he was proud to help IU be a leader in the “NIL era.”

“They understand that Opendorse Ready isn’t a ‘check-the-box’ solution to simply make a headline and impress recruits,” Lawrence said. “It’s a compliant, proven commitment to provide their student-athletes with the technology and resources used every day by the most marketable athletes and biggest leagues in professional sports.”

Of course, college athletes have not been allowed to profit off of their name, image, and likeness to this point, and there are concerns about how these kinds of endorsement deals could seep into recruiting, affect the NCAA’s competitive balance, and conflict with the concept of amateurism. The long-term implications of NIL are still being debated, but, in the meantime, universities are making moves such as IU’s deal with Opendorse to ease the transition.

Both men’s basketball coach Archie Miller and football coach Tom Allen were quoted in IU’s release on the deal with Opendorse.

“Hoosiers Basketball is backed by some of the most passionate fans in college sports,” Miller said. “It’s my belief that our tradition and fanbase will set Indiana apart as an NIL leader, helping our student-athletes to establish some of the most valuable personal brands in college sports. I’m proud of this University for leading on NIL rights and providing the athletes in our program with the tools needed to find success beyond the court.”

“We’re preparing every Indiana student-athlete for long-term success beyond the field,” Allen said. “It’s clear that NIL rights will play a significant role in the future of college football. This Opendorse partnership and our relationship with the Media School will equip IU athletes with the best brand building tools in the country.”

17 comments

  1. I am anxious to hear what others think about this entire concept.
    I personally have great concerns about taking even more time out of a “student athlete’s” life to help him or her “establish some of the most valuable personal brands in college sports” (Coach Miller quote).
    Somebody not with IU explain to me how this is a good thing.

    1. The “Name Image” program is not going away. It is happening as we speak. So the only question is “how does IU approach it”? Go professionally! Be smart.

  2. I think they have abandoned the student-athlete, I have thought this for a while about many players and teams, model and gone right into prep for professional life. I don’t have a problem with this as college is said to prepare you for your professional life.

    I have to wonder if it would make more sense to now offer a professional sports degree program which would help many athletes. We still have a number that are pursuing valuable degrees but it seems like for some it would benefit them more to have a degree in professional sports. It could be a rigorous degree dealing with finances, nutrition, medical advances in injury treatment, business models, etc. I have to think that players that take this NIL step will have their focus shifted to gearing up for the pro leagues.

    The schools and NCAA should make money off the athletes without compensation of some form for the athletes. There will be a lot of issues implementing this across the NCAA.

  3. If you want your university’s athletic program to recurit the players that want or think they can compete at the professional level, your universtiy will have to convert to the new compensation program for these top players. V13, your idea of a degee for these athletes requires for the athlete to stay in school for three to four years, not likely. Let’s turn our thoughts to a regular student that wants a degree from the university and paying the costs of attendance, tutition, books, fees and housing costs and works in the research area of the university and their work helps the university obtain grants, patents, and royality payments, shouldn’t they be compensated by sharing in the money the university obtains and not their mimimum wage payments?

  4. Not sure if too many IU Football players will have great income potential from ‘NIL.’ Guess you could say NIL will produce nil.
    Can we just win some meaningful football games against worthy competition?
    Three non-conference wins against teams with an overall combined record of 8-28 (.286) . Two of three non-conference wins against a pair comatose programs with a combined record of 3-21 (.143)
    Five conference wins against team with an overall combined conference record of 8-37 (.216) . 3/5 our Big Ten wins came against comatose teams with a combined conference record of 2-25 (.08).

    One would think the first priority would be to anchor some truthfulness in the ability of your “name” on a jersey by playing on a team which collects wins against someone other than a Little Sister of the Poor. Until that time, it’s …

    Name = Indiana
    Image = Bob Knight
    Likeness = Peach Basket

  5. I think college athletes who get paid for the use of their likeness, etc. will find that the decision to do so was penny wise and pound foolish, especially if it delays or prevents them from getting their degree. As my father used to say, “that’s short money, son.”

    Athletic scholarships should be expanded to include the full cost of attending college, and some additional benefits for the players’ immediate family members. And schools should do a better job of informing young college men why getting a legitimate degree is so valuable in the long run. Then again, IMO, some of the degrees universities are handing out are totally worthless in preparing a young person for the real world. If a person gets a degree that ends in the word “Studies,” they’ve wasted their time and someone’s money.

  6. PO, I agree with you and would like to see those ideas but NIL is here and it isn’t going away. We will just have to see what the results are after a few years. I like that players get to reap some of the benefit from their game while in college.

    IU South, I am not opposed to your idea about regular students that are in areas that lead to research dollars.

  7. College athletes getting money for their likeness isn’t going to affect college BB very much, since most of the very best college BB players are one-and-done. And I think the one-and-done policy won’t be around much longer anyways. Baseball, non-revenue-producing male sports and female sports won’t be affected very much either, since those sports draw relatively little interest from sports fans. Maybe a few very attractive athletes will be able to get paid for some modeling work, but otherwise, most athletes in non-revenue producing sports won’t get any money. That leaves college football.

    What I’d like to see is the NFL create a minor league system. The NFL’s minor league could compete with colleges for players coming out of high school. If the kid wants to start making money immediately, the minor-league FB teams would employ them for up to three years, or until they turn 21. Then they would be eligible for the regular NFL Draft. For their protection, their seasons would be limited to ten games, all played in the spring so as not to compete with college FB or NFL games. That way, young men who only see college as a stepping stone to the NFL would not have to go through the charade of appearing to be a “student athlete.” And the young men who appreciate the value of a college education can play college football under the current scholarship system. And the college players would still have the freedom to enter the NFL Draft after they turn 21 or after their third year out of High School.

    If we study how the Europeans operate with basketball and soccer, I’m sure we can find a better solution than what we have now or what is forthcoming.

    Freedom is good. Having choices is good. Having the opportunity to make money is good. So let’s “open up” the FB system and let these young men pursue what they believe is in their best interests. Let’s make the NFL start paying the bill for developing talent. And let’s get college sports back to where it’s all about the “student athletes.”

  8. Remember when Crean would schedule Liberty as part of the “Evangelical Classic?”
    Wonder if he got any summer yacht trips out of the deal? Don’t forget to pack a belt….lol.

  9. Podunker
    Really appreciate your ideas.
    Hoping NCAA and big schools will see the wisdom in them.
    Probably not enough money in it for them to like it.

  10. Nat, sometimes entities like the NFL must be leveraged to do things they don’t want to do. You wouldn’t need more than a dozen teams, with each having 40 to 45 players on the roster. You can easily do the math for what those payrolls would cost, and the revenue it would take for each team to break even. For less money than most NFL head coaches get paid, a minor league FB team could easily be funded. And I think, if managed and promoted properly, it could be profitable within a few years. Baseball is losing popularity, attendance and viewership. The NBA has shot itself in the foot of late and may begin to decline. Hockey, golf and soccer (in America) are not really competitors to FB, so a limited season played in the spring, with teams placed in the right (i.e., warmer) markets, could survive. But in order to create the right conditions, the NCAA, which ultimately is run by universities, must stand firm and say, “no, we’re going to remain dedicated to providing young athletes the opportunity to realize the value of a quality education.”

  11. Now I’m lost Podunker.
    I also like the idea of football “minor leagues” for the few players good enough to play in them.
    Your last sentence above confuses me.
    Do you think the NCAA and colleges will think football “minor leagues” are a good idea, or do you think (like me) that they will have no interest in working such an arrangement out because they’re so greedy?

  12. Nat, if the NCAA were to support (or simply not oppose) a FB minor league, giving a select number of elite FB players who want to make money right out of HS the opportunity to do so, they would be justified in prohibiting student athletes from getting paid while on an intercollegiate athletic scholarship. For baseball, if a kid coming out of HS thinks he’s good enough, he can become eligible for the MLB draft. If not, he can choose to play in college, then maybe get drafted after a few years. I think allowing athletes on scholarship to make money as a result of playing college sports would make college athletics FUBAR and risks ruining college athletics, especially college FB. So if universities across the country want to keep their sports dedicated to student athletes, they should not oppose the formation of a FB minor league. If a kid doesn’t want to go to college, doesn’t value a college education, but really needs to start making money, allow him to go pro in a FB minor league right out of HS. Then, none of the athletes can say the system is unfair or that they are being exploited. “Hey, you want to get paid, O.K., go pro. But if you want to get an education, you can choose out scholarship.” What’s to complain about? The kids lose the moral and legal leverage to demand compensation from universities because they have the freedom and the power to make a choice. As we all know, a good football player coming out of HS doesn’t really have a choice. And that’s the problem.

  13. Podunker,
    Now I get where you’re coming from, and it makes perfect sense to me.
    Since it makes perfect sense, I figure the NCAA will somehow figure out a reason to oppose it. 🙂
    I like the idea because I think it would help get rid of so much of the monkey business going on right now.

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