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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Agencies’ New Loophole

  • Athletes of any age can now sign with agents to facilitate NIL deals.
  • NIL rules are now giving agencies a way to develop relationships earlier than they ever could before.
Photo: Jason Getz-USA TODAY/Design: Alex Brooks

Major sports agencies are no longer tiptoeing around the new name, image, and likeness era. 

Now that NIL is legal, agencies can sign athletes earlier than ever before — and they’ve begun to do so in droves, from Alabama’s Bryce Young to LSU’s Olivia Dunne.

  • Multiple agents told FOS that the hope is to parlay an agency’s NIL representation into eventual draft, and professional, representation.
  • “We’re here to build the relationship, and you want it to be long-term,” Bryan Burney, from Athletes First, told FOS. “Now we just can bring them opportunities earlier on to help start that relationship.”

Burney works on the business management side at Athletes First, which counts Kyle Pitts and Justin Fields among 20 first-round NFL draft picks over the last three years. Athletes First hasn’t officially signed college players for NIL representation like other agencies have, although Burney said the agency has advised players.

Agencies still have strict rules to navigate from the NCAA and pro players unions. Agents on the marketing side can facilitate NIL deals, but those who handle pro contracts have to wait. 

The NCAA confirmed that any relationship with an agency for endorsements is technically terminated when an athlete leaves college. 

The NFLPA, in a memo obtained by ProFootballTalk, wrote that it was the agent’s “responsibility to monitor and ensure that they are in full compliance with all applicable state and federal laws, as well as NCAA rules that impact the player’s eligibility.”

“We can’t afford to even dabble in the gray area,” Burney said. “The NFL is just not our bread and butter. It’s our only bread and butter. That’s all we do.”

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