University of Utah, BYU roll out name, image and likeness plans as possible NCAA legislation looms

Seven states have NIL laws set to take effect next month, but Utah is not one of them.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Coaches Kyle Whittingham and Kalani Sitake shake hands after the game as Brigham Young University (BYU) hosts the University of Utah, NCAA football in Provo on Friday Aug. 30, 2019.

The NCAA is expected to adopt name, image, and likeness legislation next week, while seven states have NIL laws set to take effect next month.

Utah is not one of those states, nor has its legislature done so much as introduce an NIL bill, but no matter. Beginning July 1, the state’s two biggest, highest-profile athletic departments will plow forward.

The University of Utah and BYU rolled out their respective NIL plans on Thursday morning, setting the stage for student-athletes at both schools to be able to profit in various ways including sponsored posts or advertisements on social media, autograph sales, and endorsement deals beginning July 1.

In consultation with the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business and the on-campus Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, the athletic department on Thursday introduced Elevate U, which will build upon the already-established Ute Academy student-athlete development program.

Elevate U is placing a heavy emphasis on teaching on how NIL works, and how to go about it in a responsible manner.

“We’re very excited about what we have developed for our student-athletes with the Elevate U program,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “For several months, we have focused intently on the creation of this program, led by Deputy AD & Chief Operating Officer Charmelle Green, and we are very grateful for our partnership with the David Eccles School of Business and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to provide our student-athletes with expertise in building and managing their brand and pursuing business opportunities.”

Also on Thursday, BYU announced the creation of Built4Life, a career development program for its student-athletes meant to help them prepare for life after college sports, and help them capitalize on future NIL opportunities.

The Built4Life network includes the founding partners of the Salt Lake Chamber, the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce and Silicon Slopes, and is overseen by Gary Vernon in an associate athletic director role.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former Gov. Gary Herbert, right, is joined by BYU head coach Kalani Sitake as they talk about the Built 4 Life program to support athletes during the BYU Football Media Day in the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

During BYU Football’s media day, coach Kalani Sitake said he wanted to be proactive about the situation and have this program in place because of the many different directions the NIL legislature could go.

“This is something that’s going to be in place even if NIL doesn’t work out, even if they take it away,” Sitake said. “This is something we can still do to help educate our players. That, in combination with the economic status of the state, especially along the Wasatch Front and in this valley — we’re No. 1 in the country, so why not partner with the big leagues and the guys who are No. 1 in the country and allow to help our players and our student-athletes. It just makes a lot of sense and I think this is the right time to do it, and anticipating what’s going to happen with the NIL through NCAA and legislation and things like that.”

During the State of the Program session, which was broadcasted on BYUtv, athletic director Tom Holmoe acknowledged that there are more questions than answers surrounding the possible legislation, but likes how Sitake took the step forward to start helping his student-athletes now.

Holmoe also emphasized that the new program, and even the possible NIL legislation, isn’t just about student-athletes being able to make money, but to feel like there’s more to life.

“Now, we’re adding that extra experience about how you can get your life going now,” Holmoe said. There’s too many kids across the country, and this is what the critics say, that get used up in football. And that’s not going to happen at BYU.”

Redshirt sophomore Keenan Pili said he’s not too familiar with the legislation and how it could affect him directly, but is appreciative of the steps BYU has taken to better help its student-athletes.

“BYU is a unique school like that. I think we’re blessed with some good leaders, especially Kalani. He wants the best for his boys, and I think this Built4Life is kind of their way of giving back to us, giving us an opportunity to go after football. It’s pretty cool.”