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Meet one BYU athlete who is primed to cash in on the NCAA’s new rule change

The recent NCAA policy was approved Wednesday and started Thursday.

(David Becker | AP) BYU guard Shaylee Gonzales (2) dives for the ball over Gonzaga guard Cierra Walker during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the West Coast Conference women's tournament championship Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Las Vegas.

There are 210,000 people who follow Shaylee Gonzales on TikTok. She has 129,000 YouTube followers and some 77,000 Instagram followers.

The BYU women’s basketball star has the biggest total social media following from any current BYU athlete. And now she can cash in on that.

For the first time ever, college athletes are now able to profit off their name, image and likeness due to the recent adopted NCAA NIL policy that started on Thursday.

Thursday couldn’t come soon enough for Gonzales, who’s been waiting for the day NIL legislation would pass for years. When Gonzales saw the policy to profit off NIL was coming sooner than later, the BYU guard started getting ready.

Gonzales has a logo ready, has gotten in contact with graphic designers and is working on getting merch ready.

“Just talking with other influencers, other athletes about their social medias and what I can do to grow my brand, and it’s been super, super exciting,” Gonzales said. “This is a super exciting process and I’m just looking forward to grow my brand even more.”

Along with Gonzales, many BYU student-athletes, like those at other Utah colleges and around the nation, have changed up their social media bios to include a specific email businesses or companies could reach out at if they’d like to make some sort of endorsement deal, or something of the like, with them.

However, besides student-athletes throughout the state soliciting for opportunities, it’s been quiet. No student-athlete has struck a deal just yet.

Gonzales has been receiving emails from different companies since she started at BYU in 2018. Previously, she was only able to respond that she was unable to work with them due to NCAA rules, but is now able to take the offers seriously and sort through which companies she’d like to work with.

For Gonzales, it will be important that whichever company she chooses to work with not only fits into her brand and into BYU’s policies, but also is a product or company Gonzales actually likes and uses.

“The companies I want to work with are companies that I’ll always use their brand and I think they’ll be lined up with what I like,” Gonzales said. “I’m not just going to say yes to all these companies and just do so many sponsorships just because of the money. I want to do it because I actually like the product, I enjoy it and I think other people should use it.”

On Wednesday night, just hours before the new policy would go into effect, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe sent out a letter to all BYU student-athletes, coaches and staff, outlining BYU’s policies.

These polices include:

  • Compensation for NIL activities must be within fair market value.

  • Student-athletes may not be compensated for athletic accomplishments (e.g., pay-for-play)

  • Student-athletes may use BYU or athletic department related marks and logos, including all aspects of the uniform, only after those rights have been secured through a formal agreement granting specified rights. While you may not use marks or logos in your NIL activities right now, additional information on how to secure such rights is forthcoming.

  • Student-athletes may not enter into NIL agreements with companies, businesses, causes or products that do not conform to the BYU Honor Code Standards. Some examples of such prohibited areas include, but are not limited to, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, adult entertainment, coffee, etc.

  • Student-athletes must comply with BYU Honor Code Standards, including the University Dress & Grooming Standards, while engaging in NIL activities.

  • Use of institutional facilities, including athletic department facilities, is prohibited at this time.

  • In order for us to best assist you, all student-athletes must have NIL agreements reviewed by the athletics administration prior to engaging in the NIL activity. Disclosure forms are enclosed in this policy.

Of course, BYU Athletics could choose to add to these policies in the future as the NIL policy plays out.

BYU Athletics administrators plan on meeting with teams individually over the next several days to provide guidance and answer questions about NIL, while the recently launched BYU Built4Life program will continue to serve as the mechanism for educating student-athletes and business partners on compliant NIL integration.

BYU’s partnership with Opendorse will continue to provide student-athletes with educational and content-creation resources to enhance personal and professional branding on all social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and LinkedIn.

“Today is a most auspicious occasion. With the passage of interim NIL policies, our student-athletes now have the opportunity to maximize their earning potential in a variety of areas, from marketing deals to endorsements to monetizing their online presence,” BYU associate athletic director Gary Veron said. “I am thrilled to support BYU student-athletes as they begin laying the groundwork of building their personal brands. Our Built4Life program is prime to help ensure that money earned through NIL deals becomes a tool for future financial success. The college athletic landscape will never be the same, and we are ready to embrace these exciting changes.”

While there won’t be any hasty decisions, Gonzales is ready to get rolling. The 21-year-old doesn’t have a timeline for when she’ll get her merch ready or when she’ll start working with companies, but is aware that it will be harder to manage this “side hobby” when the season starts.

Basketball and school will always take priority, Gonzales said, but social media is also a large part of the BYU basketball player’s life.

The new NIL policy now puts an end to longtime question: should college athletes get paid? But for those that argue that student-athletes already get paid by receiving athletic scholarships, Gonzales has a different perspective.

The way Gonzales sees it, student-athletes essentially work for the NCAA, who in turn makes millions of dollars from them. Now, they are just able to get paid for the work they already put in.

“We would like to be able to be like the regular college student and have a job and get paid for it,” Gonzales said. “I think this is a great opportunity for a lot of student-athletes to grow their brand. I am so blessed that it’s passed and super excited. I think it’s an amazing idea and it’s going to really take off and help athletes for even after college.”

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