BYU football surprises walk-ons, announces tuition will be covered as part of deal with a Utah protein bar company

More than 30 student-athletes benefit from name, image and likeness rules

(Jaren Wilkey | BYU Athletics) Built Brands, a Spanish Fork company, has covered the cost of tuition for all of BYU football's walk-on players, taking advantage of new name, image and likeness rules in college athletics. © BYU PHOTO 2021 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322

After the first practice of fall camp, BYU football coach Kalani Sitake was asked if any walk-on athletes had been elevated to a scholarship.

“I have this love for walk-ons because they sacrifice the most, they’re willing to pay for it in so many different ways — and definitely out of their pockets,” Sitake said last week. “They’re always going to have a special part of my heart when it comes to this football program.”

The sixth-year coach said he’d let players announce that themselves if they have, but said he wished they could all be on scholarship.

Well, Sitake got his wish.

While BYU didn’t suddenly break NCAA rules to grant all 123 of its players a scholarship, it found a way through the rules.

Thanks to the recent name, image, and likeness legislation (NIL), BYU Athletics and Built Brands — already a corporate partner of the Cougars — came up with multi-year NIL agreements with BYU players that includes compensation to all members of the team. For the 36 walk-on members, that amount is comparable to the cost of tuition for the academic year.

During a team meeting on Thursday, Nick Greer, co-founder of Built Brands, went to the front of the room for what seemed to be a presentation. Instead, he called up a pair of walk-ons and announced they would be employees for Built and in return would have their tuition covered.

Then he had all walk-ons stand up and made a similar announcement.

“We are excited to partner with BYU and all 123 players on the football team,” Greer said in a press release. “We are making history together. Cougar players know success happens when every player invests in each other to do what’s best for the team. That’s what we believe at Built too, and we’re excited to support every player of the BYU football team. Games are won when every single player lifts and supports each other with everything they’ve got. That is how we will all win. That is how we unite as one!”

All players that enter the NIL agreement will wear Built branding on their practice helmets and participate in experiential events for Built, while walk-on players will provide additional social media and experience promotions for Built as part of their agreements.

“From the beginning of the NIL discussion, my hope was that changes to NCAA rules and regulations would provide a pathway forward for all players to benefit more fully from their name, image, and likeness, especially walk-ons who sacrifice so much to make our program great,” Sitake said in a press release. “When Nick Greer called to tell me that Built was committed to entering into NIL deals which would pay our walk-ons enough money to cover their tuition for the full academic year, I could not hold back my emotions. I love these boys, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be partnering with a company that is equally committed to assisting BYU football in building a culture of love and learning while enhancing the experience for all players.”