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These top college athletes could grab the most money from NIL deals

College athletes profiting off of NCAA policy
College athletes take advantage of new NCAA policy 05:00

An Olympic gymnast and two of the sons of an NBA legend could make more money on Instagram than any other college athlete under the NCAA's interim name, image and likeness guidelines, a new report shows.

American gold medalist Sunisa Lee and college basketball star Shareef O'Neal, son of L.A. Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal, sit atop a list of 30 athletes who sports-betting analytics firm Action Network believes could rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars based on their social media reach alone. 

The list also includes Shareef's younger brother Shaqir, who plays basketball for Texas Southern University; as well as Spencer Rattler, quarterback for the University of Oklahoma; wrestler Gable Steveson of the University of Minnesota; and Scotty Pippen Jr., son of the former Chicago Bulls player, currently a Vanderbilt University combo guard.

Action Network said its list "not only shines light on some incredible emerging talent, but illustrates the changing face of college sport in the U.S."

That face is changing because new NCAA rules now allow college athletes to monetize their names, images and likenesses, or NIL, as the fast-emerging asset is known. Plugging a product or service on social media is just one way college athletes have begun cashing in. Once the NCAA announced the NIL rules, companies large and small have wasted no time finding college athletes for sponsorship deals. 

Sports business experts have told CBS MoneyWatch the wave of sponsorship deals are still in their infancy, but ultimately it could add up to spectacular income for at least some of the young athletes. 

For example, if Shareef were to sign a sponsorship deal, his existing Instagram account could earn him $10,820 per sponsored post, according to the Action Network report, the most by any other athlete on its list. 

Medalist Lee, in turn, could earn $6,403 per Instagram post; grappler Steveson, $1,321 per post; and Pippen Jr. $1,014 per post.

Action Network based its figures off of an estimate of $0.004 per Instagram post, per follower, which the platform says is the average price the typical social media influencer earns for brand deals with consumer goods and service companies. 

Neither the O'Neal brothers, nor Lee nor Steveson have publicly announced any sponsorship deals so far. Pippen Jr. already has an endorsement deal with chicken fingers restaurant chain Raising Cane's.

Action Network noted that while college sports already are popular in the U.S., "players capitalizing on NIL marketing deals should further strengthen the long-term viability of college athletics."

Sports business experts have predicted that individual college athletes could generate tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships and endorsements during their school days. College basketball and football players likely to turn pro were predicted to score the biggest deals, a scenario that's already starting to play out. 

University of Miami football players D'Eriq King and Bubba Bolden have each signed $20,000 endorsement deals with College Hunks Hauling Junk, ESPN reported. Hercy Miller, a Tennessee State University basketball player and son of rapper-turned-entrepreneur Master P, signed a four-year deal worth $2 million with tech company Web Apps America, his father said. University of Central Florida sprinter Samieryah Bradwell signed a $10,000 deal with Sam's Club last month. 

Bradwell was one of 10 college athletes that Sam's Club signed to a deal, the retailer said, including Southern Methodist University soccer player Sam Estrada and Georgia State University wide receiver Sam Pinckney.

"Supporting these athletes gives us a chance to connect with members in a new way, support students and rally behind many under-represented collegiate sports," Sam's Club chief merchant Megan Crozier said in a statement. "It's a win-win."

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