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Student-athletes are taking advantage of NIL, but what is it?

What is NIL and who is getting paid from it?
What is NIL and who is getting paid from it? 03:01

MINNEAPOLIS -- If you've been watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament games, there's a good chance most of the players you're seeing have some kind of Name-Image-Likeness (NIL) deal.

Since a Supreme Court ruling in 2021, this policy has allowed student-athletes to make money from those three things.

So, who's getting paid? Good Question.

"It really runs the gamut, It's one-off deals for a small amount of money that the student-athletes are really excited to participate," said Derek Burns, co-founder of Dinkytown Athletes, an NIL collective for UMN athletes. "But, then there are other brands that are paying good money to partner with student-athletes."

At the University of Minnesota, 20% of student-athletes participate in NIL. Of those deals, 43% are represented in women's sports and 57% in men's. There is at least one student-athlete from every Gopher sport.

Women's hockey forward Taylor Heise is one of the University of Minnesota's top NIL earners. She's currently working with brands like Chipotle and CCM. She's worked with Northwestern Mutual and Noble in the past. Just this week, she did an Instagram post on the benefits of milk.

"I get to share what I love and get to partner with brands that I never would have thought about partnering with," Heise said.

Her deals include a variety of things like media days, autograph signing, in-person visits, speaking engagements and social media posts.

Most NIL deals are not public information, but many colleges and universities require their student-athletes to disclose the information to them. On3, a college sports data and media company, estimates the brand values of the biggest NIL names in its NIL 100 List. It bases its estimation of a student-athletes potential earnings on performance, influence and exposure.

Right now, high school senior basketball player Bronny James is number one on the list with a valuation estimated at $7.2M. He's following by Arch Manning, UT's newest quarterback; Livvy Dunne, an LSU gymnast; Mikey Williams, a high school senior basketball player headed to Memphis next year; and Caleb Williams, last year's Heisman Trophy winner.

Burns estimates the top 4% of NIL earners make most of the money.

"The astronomical headlines around six-, seven-figure deals for that top 4% of athletes is certainly not the norm and is not representative of what's going on for 90-plus percent," he said.

Instead, he believes the "average" student-athletes makes hundreds or low thousands of dollars over a 12-month period.

And, while the top sports represented nationally, and at the U of M, remain football and men's basketball, the University of Minnesota says women's basketball and volleyball are popular NIL sports as well.

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