Fanatics Unveils NIL Plans For National College Football Players Jersey Program

The name, image and likeness became a reality last July as state laws that allowed athletes to finally enjoy their marketing rights took things out of the hands of the NCAA.

And while athletes have since benefited from marketing deals and autograph signings, the two most talked-about segments of the business that started talking about athlete compensation have remained largely left out: jersey sales and video games.

The former received a huge boost on Thursday morning, as Fanatics, the world’s largest licensed sportswear retailer, announced it was joining OneTeam Partners, which would aggregate athlete names into teams academics to mimic what professional sports league unions have in a group licensing agreement.

“Large-scale group rights for college athletes is the only way to move this agenda forward,” said Derek Eiler, executive vice president of Fanatics College, which has relationships with more than 150 colleges and universities. “Aligning with OneTeam was a critical step in developing a scalable and effective varsity jersey program.”

Fanatics promises to offer school jerseys with the logos of partners including Nike, adidas and Under Armor ahead of the 2022 college football season. Fanatics says the offering will only include replica jerseys at first, but select schools will have home and away options.

The NCAA avoided paying athletes for their jersey sales through plausible deniability. They simply allowed schools to offer the athlete’s number on the back, while prohibiting them from putting the name.

There was no confusion.

Offering No. 15 when Carmelo Anthony was playing in Syracuse or Tim Tebow was playing in Florida dramatically increased jersey sales because fans bought those jerseys because they depicted the actual players.

“I’ve always thought college players should get paid for jersey sales,” Anthony told me in April 2004 on the anniversary of his Syracuse team’s national title win. “I would have been rich.”

It’s unclear how much a college player will earn with a sold jersey. Michigan players began getting paid this season after the school’s official retailer, MDen, struck deals with players through the Valiant brand, which bundled player rights. Players were paid at least 11% of the jersey’s wholesale price, which is more than NFL players earn on their jersey sales.

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Neal T. Doss