After Supreme Court NCAA decision, student-athletes who want to cash in have to get educated: company founder

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The founder of a new name, image and likeness advisory firm says educating student-athletes is the "most critical" piece to success in the uncharted industry, telling FOX Business that players need to learn financial literacy, an understanding of social media, content creation and taxes.

Doug Fillis, the founder of Accelerate Sports Ventures, said in an interview with FOX Business that he created the firm as rules surrounding name, image and likeness (NIL) began changing.

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The Supreme Court ruled last month, in a unanimous decision, that the NCAA has been illegally restricting education-based benefits that could be used as compensation to student-athletes. The NCAA, also last month, approved an interim name, image and likeness policy, giving student-athletes the opportunity to earn money from endorsements, sponsorships, social media and more.

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Fillis, a longtime sports marketing executive and adjunct professor of sports marketing at New York University’s Tisch Institute for Global Sport, emphasized the importance of exposing student-athletes to resources as they seek to create business and revenue opportunities for themselves.

In this Sept. 19, 2015, file photo, Army players huddle in the end zone before an NCAA college football game between Army and Wake Forest at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File) (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File / AP Newsroom)

"Educating athletes is the most critical piece to name, image and likeness because there are so many things athletes have to prepare themselves for," Fillis said. "It is not only managing their own personal brand, but dealing with contracts, understanding how it can impact financial aid for them."

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"The way I look at name, image and likeness is that it is almost a foreign language right now," Fillis continued. "There are so many components of it that need to be addressed, and students need to be educated on them so they can avoid missteps or issues related to taxes or their athletic eligibility."

The University of New Mexico partnered with Accelerate Sports Ventures – the first major contract for the young advisory firm – to provide student-athletes with resources as they explore the NIL space.

"It became evident the need to do everything above and beyond to make sure our athletes have the opportunity to be successful," University of New Mexico Vice President and Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez told FOX Business.

"We’re all in the same boat – learning as you go," he continued, adding that the NIL space has the "possibility to be overwhelming" for students.

"Right now, they can manage it, but right now, we haven’t started the school year, or competition seasons," Nuñez explained. "Our hope is to be able to provide student-athletes structure and balance."

Nuñez told FOX Business that the University of New Mexico partnered with Accelerate to do just that – to teach brand building, marketing, entrepreneurship, business structure, social media and financial literacy to athletes.

"We have recruited an incredible group of brand builders and storytellers who will provide firsthand, real-world knowledge to educate athletes," Fillis said, telling FOX Business that Accelerate has professional athletes and influencers who have already "created, built, leveraged and monetized their brands in a significant way" to help with the education programming for college athletes.

Fillis told FOX Business that part of their education outreach to students at the University of New Mexico will be in a podcast format, featuring New York Yankees hitting instructor Rachel Balkovec, professional tennis player Brittany Collens, Arizona Cardinals linebacker Devon Kennard, ESPN analyst and entrepreneur Amanda Scarborough and more.

"These athletes are putting themselves in the mix of the real world," Nuñez said, acknowledging that some students have adapted to new NIL responsibilities faster than others.

"We’re going to have to understand what that balance is, and we’re going to find ways to assist them in whatever ways we feel we can," he said.

The new NCAA policy provides a handful of benefits to college athletes, recruits, their families and universities across the country. Athletes will be able to engage in "NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities are responsible for determining whether those activities are consistent with state law."

New Mexico signed NIL legislation into law, the Student Athlete Endorsement Act, which went into effect July 1. The law allows student-athletes to earn compensation from their name, image, likeness or athletic reputation, and prohibits a university from letting that earned compensation effect the student-athlete’s financial aid grants.

At this point, nine other states have NIL laws – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon and Texas – all of which went into effect July 1.

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College athletes who attend a school that is in a state without an NIL law can still participate without violating NCAA rules.

As for the University of New Mexico, Nuñez said it "always [wants] to be leaders in our industry" and is "trying to put our best foot forward in this space."

"There is hope and expectation that the federal government can come to some conclusion to provide some parameters and understanding so we can approach this with the right mindset," Nuñez said. "We are putting things in place so that we can help students, athletes, and coaches."

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