‘It’s the No. 1 priority:’ How NIL makes an impact for KU student-athletes

Oct 1, 2022; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks logo at entrance to the field prior to the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Iowa State Cyclones at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2022; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks logo at entrance to the field prior to the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Iowa State Cyclones at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports /

College athletics is an ever-changing landscape. From the transfer portal to rule changes to conference realignment, it never looks the same from year to year.

No change has been as impactful to college athletics as the introduction of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). Introduced in June 2021, the policy from the NCAA allows student-athletes to profit from their name and likeness and build their image in a more meaningful way.

Kansas Athletics was one of the early leaders of developing NIL opportunities for student-athletes and did so by partnering with Mass St. Collective.

The collective was founded in July 2021 shortly after the NCAA policy was announced to help KU student-athletes make positive contributions to local Kansas communities while allowing them to receive compensation and grow their personal brand through various NIL opportunities.

We recently spoke with Mass St. Collective President and COO Dan Beckler to discuss how NIL is making an impact with KU student-athletes and how fans can learn more about and support this important initiative.

Why is NIL support so critical for KU in this new era of college athletics?

When college athletes first step foot on campus, NIL is at the top of their list. They’re asking questions to coaches, the scouting department, the university, trying to learn about their opportunities. And it’s not just the kids, but the parents as well. They want to know their kids have the best chance to become more well-rounded and taken care of in all aspects of being a student-athlete in today’s college experience.

KU has done a great job of embracing that and sharing the stories of what we do at Mass St. Collective and emphasizing why NIL is so important at KU. It’s the number one priority in college athletics right now.

How is NIL at KU performing relative to other schools in the Big 12?

KU is at the very top in the Big 12, and that is a collaborative effort between us and Kansas Athletics. It’s been a great partnership to help benefit the student-athletes.

In fact, we were recently named one of nine “NIL Power Players” by the Sports Business Journal. The designation is given to collectives who are setting the trends, making the most of the dynamic NIL space, and who are best positioned for the future. KU was also among eight nominees for Best Institutional Program at the INFLCR NIL Summit.

What are some of the challenges in the NIL world?

The challenges that exist are mainly the unknown regulations from the NCAA, federal legislation, and conference realignment that has a ripple effect in all areas. At the end of the day, NIL isn’t going anywhere, but what’s important is that – with KU Athletics – we will continue to educate fans, supporters, and donors about why NIL is important and how it positively impacts our student-athletes.

How can KU fans and donors support NIL?

We have a variety of ways for fans to contribute. They can sign up for monthly donations or make a one-time contribution directly through our website – MassStrategies.com. Fans can also have their contributions targeted directly toward specific student-athletes they’d like to support. For example, if a donor says they want their money to go to the KU Swim & Dive team, we find NIL opportunities for those athletes so they can receive those contributions. Local businesses can also inquire about partnering with a student-athlete and we can help them collaborate to grow their brands. More information about how to contribute can be found on our website.

How do NIL funds get distributed to student-athletes, and are there restrictions on what they can use them for?

There are no restrictions on what the student-athletes can use the NIL profits for. However, one of the services we provide is financial advisors and task consultants who help the students learn how to handle their income and understand the tax element of their funds so they can manage their money responsibly. Our partners at Edmonds Duncan are tremendous in helping educate the students. In addition, one of the best services we provide is that we submit all NIL activities to our compliance partners on our student-athletes’ behalf. We handle the scheduling of events and ensure all the paperwork is filled out for them to make it as seamless as possible for the students and for KU to verify their compliance.

In order to receive the funds, the athletes have to engage in agreed-upon, permissible activities – whether that’s attending events, signing autographs, posting on social media, etc. There are a lot of charity events as well, and that’s one of our main goals: to help the athletes get involved in the community and leave Lawrence a better place than they found it.

How should KU fans be supporting NIL in conjunction with Williams Fund and KU Athletics contributions?

When we speak to donors and fans, we encourage them to continue supporting the Williams Fund if they’re able to. We don’t want to take away a single dollar from the Williams Fund and the scholarships they help provide our student-athletes. What we ask is for our generous alumni to go above and beyond for our student-athletes. We want them to have a direct impact, and I don’t think you can have a greater impact on our student-athletes than NIL in this day and age of college athletics.