West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown was not taken by surprise Wednesday morning when the NCAA Board of Governors announced its support for a plan that allowed student-athletes the opportunity to profit off their names, images and likenesses. In fact, it was the contrary.
Long before the board even announced it was holding Wednesday’s press conference, WVU’s football coaching staff was putting together ideas on how to help its players navigate this new frontier.
“This is something we’ve been preparing for within our program probably for over the last six months,” Brown said during a Wednesday morning video conference. “We’ve got a really good plan, an educational plan of how we’re going to deal with in within our program.”
Among the guidelines in the plan, student-athletes can’t wear school-branded apparel during personal endorsement opportunities and must disclose the terms of those deals with their athletic departments. They can hire agents, but those agents can’t seek professional sports opportunities while the student-athletes are in school.
Brown said he could see the winds of change blowing in that direction for a while. A person can sometimes feel momentum growing around a concept and, in talking with WVU athletic director Shane Lyons and others in college sports, he could feel the momentum growing for this plan.
So, rather than fight it, Brown decided his program will offer as much guidance as it’s allowed to give players as much information as possible. He said Wednesday that the football team has entered into a partnership with someone to help with that. Brown didn’t say who that person was Wednesday, but did say it would be announced soon.
“What we did is we tried to get in front of that,” Brown said. “It’s about education and educating our players on how to take advantage of that. How to create a brand and what’s a brand look like. That’s how we got ahead of it and I really feel good about our plan of doing that.”
As far as advantages to this new rule — which could be implemented as early as the 2021-22 season, if legislation is drafted by Oct. 30 — Brown sees some in some areas, but is still waiting to see in others. As far as a recruiting advantage, he admitted he wasn’t well-versed enough in that topic to say definitively where those advantages would lie. He did, however, see plenty of potential benefits for his players and other athletes at WVU.
Would there be a windfall for his entire roster and the basketball team? He didn’t see that, but Brown does think WVU athletes would be very marketable in West Virginia. There are no professional teams to compete with and the Mountaineers are the lone Power 5 program in the state.
Until recommendations become reality, Brown will keep learning more about how that NIL plan will affect his players. There still are plenty of things he wants to know.
“You don’t know what the parameters are and when you get the parameters, how do you monitor that?” Brown asked. “Who’s in charge of monitoring? Is that going to be part of the head coach’s responsibilities, because how am I going to be able to monitor if they have an agent? I have a lot more questions on it than answers.
“I understand why we went down this path,” he added. “I do get it. I think it can be beneficial. I just don’t know how you manage it. Again, I’m just not educated enough on it. We will [manage it]. We will and we’ll figure it out.”