5 Perfect Endorsement Deals That Prove Paying College Athletes Was Long Overdue
For years, there was extensive debate about the fact that NCAA student athletes didn’t receive any compensation for their play, at least for schools not big enough to have an army of bagmen dropping off under-the-table payments. Of course, if the NCAA officially sniffed so much as a waft of greenback coming from players’ bank accounts, the program would immediately be hit with massive sanctions. Combined with the fact that all of this was happening while NCAA sports themselves are a massive business for pretty much anyone who isn’t actively playing in them, and the whole thing stank to high heaven. It’s hard to claim it’s all the work of amateurs and for the love of the game when the NCAA football playoffs are reeling in nearly 20 million viewers and are bona-fide appointment television.
The solution that’s finally been made available to college players is the approval of NIL deals, or “Name, Image and Likeness” deals. Before these were allowed, players weren’t allowed to make any money off their own popularity (which also led to strange things like being able to buy college sports jerseys, but NOT with names on them). Now, though, players have a way to capitalize on risking their bodies for the entertainment of the whole country and can better cash in on the years they’re a household name.
Obviously, NIL is a good thing. But some deals go above and beyond in their perfection. Here are five of the best…
Drew Timme and Dollar Shave Club
Gonzaga forward Drew Timme was a fixture of both the Zags’ regular season play and the broadcast of the 2021 NCAA basketball championship game. As one of the best forwards in the country, he deserved plenty of camera time on pure merit, but it didn’t hurt that the whole time, he was rocking what was undeniably, undisputably, an absolutely bitchin’ horseshoe mustache. There’s simply nothing like watching someone who looks like a prospector in the middle of a growth spurt elbowing his way into the paint for a layup.
Dollar Shave Club recognized the star power occupying the bottom half of his head and jumped on the opportunity to get a deal done. The affordable razors are now the official tool of strategically shaving your facial hair into something that makes a Harley-Davidson rev in your brain when you see it.
Kool-Aid McKinstry and Kool-Aid
When Da’Quincy McKinstry was born, the tale goes, he was born with a big smile on his face. So big, in fact, that it prompted his grandmother to bestow upon him a thoroughly fantastic nickname: “Kool-Aid,” after the famously jovial anthropomorphic drink jug. What she didn’t know is that she’d just made her grandson a whole lot of money around two decades in the future. By the time he was a defensive back at Alabama, the nickname was so ingrained that Kool-Aid was the name listed in the football team's official roster.
It doesn’t take a marketing genius to find the hole to the peg in this puzzle, and the real Kool-Aid quickly busted in with a deal for McKinstry, fulfilling his horrifically sweet, syrupy destiny.
Decoldest Crawford and SOS Heating & Cooling
With their ability to create NIL deals in the future, it wouldn’t be surprising to start seeing young sports hopefuls with names like “Doritos McLaren.” Another player who capitalized on their unique name to snag an NIL deal was Nebraska wide receiver Decoldest Crawford. No nicknames necessary here — Decoldest’s birth name was already so perfect that a local HVAC company in Nebraska, SOS Heating & Cooling, felt the pull of fate’s thread and brought him into the fold officially.
Will Ulmer and Himself
The next NIL deal isn’t a perfect name-to-business pairing, or a natural partnership spotted by an advertiser with a sharp eye for synergy, but rather a personal business that had been torturously complicated thanks to the NCAA’s previously awkward rules. Will Ulmer was an offensive lineman at Marshall, but, as if a living, breathing cliche of the gentle giant, also a singer-songwriter.
Unfortunately, because of the NCAA, he was a singer-songwriter who wasn’t allowed to perform under his own name. You can start to see here how the old rules felt less like “protecting young players” and more like “fully completing the weird ownership vibes of schools over their athletes.” Until the NIL allowances went through, Ulmer was forced to perform under the pseudonym “Lucky Bill” unless he wanted to risk sanctions from the NCAA over someone paying five bucks for a Will Ulmer concert ticket. Would the NCAA really be that petty? Yes. Yes, they would.
BYU Football and Built Bars
For the most part, NIL deals disproportionately help out star athletes or ones lucky enough to have their names support some catchy wordplay. It’s still a step in the right direction, considering the options before were absolutely jack squat. Brigham Young University, though, has maneuvered the NIL deal into a program that benefits each and every member of their team, in a step that hopefully will stop the players putting their ACLs on the line for free to fill the university’s coffers.
Through a partnership with Built Brands, the manufacturer of Built Bars, every member of the BYU team, even the walk-ons, now has the cost of their tuition covered. So this is what the NCAA was so afraid of?
Apparently, it was, because the NCAA immediately set up a probe into the deal. God forbid some kids get free fucking tuition.