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Endorsement deals come thick and fast for college athletes, as NCAA floodgates open

College athletes profiting off of NCAA policy
College athletes profiting off of NCAA policy... 05:00

Boost Mobile and Fresno State women's basketball twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder. Smoothie King and Louisiana State University and quarterback Myles Brennan. 1-800-Got-Junk and Kansas University hoops star Mitch Lightfoot. 

Companies large and small have wasted no time finding college athletes for sponsorship deals, just weeks after the NCAA granted them the OK to do so. While the financial details on some of these deals have been kept secret, what's clear is that student-athletes signings are happening faster than you can say "Division I." Sports experts say this is only the beginning. 

"The speed at which companies went after these athletes was shocking," Tim Derdenger, a sports marketing and branding expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, told CBS MoneyWatch. "I mean, I knew it was going to happen eventually, but we're only three weeks in."

The NCAA's decision last month on name, image and likeness rules (or NIL rules) has cleared the way for college sports players to earn money by endorsing products and services from companies. Since then, some businesses have emerged as early takers on business deals with college athletes. 

A new crop of NIL consultancy firms like MatchPoint and Opendorse have played matchmaker for some of the endorsement deals, but many local businesses have not found it necessary to use an outside service to find their college star. 

Wright's Barbecue, a restaurant in Arkansas, signed endorsement deals earlier this month with several offensive linemen from the University of Arkansas' football team, while Mission BBQ of Maryland signed a deal to endorse the University of Notre Dame's entire offensive line. 

With endorsement signings in full swing, Derdenger said these deals would soon become the new bargaining chip that colleges use to attract the best high school athletes.

Biggest deals for athletes likely to turn pro

Once the NCAA endorsements decision was announced, Derdenger and other sports business experts predicted that college athletes could generate tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships and endorsements. College basketball and football players likely to turn pro were predicted by experts to score the biggest deals, a scenario that's already starting to play out. 

Hercy Miller, an incoming Tennessee State University basketball player, signed a $2 million endorsement with tech company Web Apps America. The 19-year-old, ranked as one of 2021's top 100 recruits by ESPN, signed the four-year deal before even setting foot on campus, according to a report by Knox News. 

University of Miami quarterback D'Eriq King signed an endorsement worth $20,000 with College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving and Murphy Auto Group, the Miami Herald reported. The owner of fitness gym American Top Team has offered the entire University of Miami football team $500 a month, up to $6,000, in an endorsement package, although the players have reportedly not accepted the deal just yet. 

While some student-athletes have already signed deals, some players are still weighing their options. 

Dennis Barnes, a football player at the University of Texas at El Paso, has a few endorsement offers from companies but said he first wants to work on building his social media presence and his overall brand before picking one of the opportunities. He said improving his online presence might help him land even more lucrative offers. 

"Ungodly numbers"

Barnes said he will prioritize endorsement options that offer longer timelines when he's examining different offerings.

"So, say we're talking about Nike and they wanted me to do a deal for one year and there's also Under Armour who wants me to do a deal for six months," Barnes, 21, told CBS MoneyWatch. "That shorter deal isn't going to do much for me because I'm still going to be in school for two more years."

Barnes, who aspires to join the NFL, said he doesn't have a specific timeline for when he wants to sign a deal. College athletes should try to land deals because they otherwise don't have time to work a regular job while in school like other students can, Barnes said. 

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban said this week that one of his players — quarterback Bryce Young — has been wooed by companies for endorsement deals. 

"Our QB has already approached ungodly numbers, and he hasn't even played yet," Saban said. "If I told you what it is … it's almost 7-figures."

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