© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Sports Beat content is reported by Sports Journalism students in the Michigan State School of Journalism.

Name, image and likeness making waves for Michigan State varsity athletes

Darien Harris is the assistant AD/NIL and special advisor to the athletic director for MSU athletics.
Johnny Noone
Darien Harris is the assistant AD/NIL and special advisor to the athletic director for MSU athletics.

MSU’s Athletic Department is working to help its athletes understand the recent NCAA rules change, and find their own ways to take advantage of opportunity.

Two years ago, the NCAA established a new rule called NIL (Name, Image and Likeness), that altered collegiate sports. Michigan State, like other schools, has been navigating NIL as it continues to develop.

In July, MSU Athletics appointed Darien Harris to be the Assistant AD/NIL and special advisor to the athletic director. Harris, a former MSU football star and former Big Ten champion, is leading the NIL program along with Ashton Henderson and Alex Breske. Harris spearheads the program being the main contact for the athletes, coaches, donors, corporate sponsors and any other collectives involved with the program.

“Ashton Henderson oversees nine different apartments, including our NIL one, and Alex Breske handles more of the legal side when it comes to NIL making sure nobody is breaking any rules. Us three in tandem really handle it on a day to day basis. This involves weekly meetings and also an advisory committee that meets bimonthly,” said Harris.

NIL is now a staple with college athletes and schools are doing different things to benefit their athletes. MSU started a program called Evergreen and its purpose is to educate and assist the athletes with navigating NIL.

“Evergreen is our athletic department NIL program that encompasses everything from education to empowering student athletes to personal brand development. We recently took home the best institution program award at the NIL summit in Atlanta, Georgia at the College Football Hall of Fame. It's just because of our innovative model. We have an NIL celebration event and a business summit that most places don’t have,” said Harris.

MSU NIL program also works with Team Advance, which entirely focuses on the education of NIL. Team Advance works with different collegiate programs around the country. The program is giving the athletes an opportunity to learn and have a chance to be involved with NIL.

“The first thing is up to the student athletes whether they want to participate in NIL or not. That’s what I am always preaching to them. NIL is about student athletes going out and making themselves available. There really isn’t any approval process from us, but to be there as a buffer to help them do it the right way,” said Harris.

The NCAA has implemented a lot of regulations that programs have to follow. Athletes are not supposed to be paid to just play or to be on the team.

“In order for something to be a valid NIL transaction, per the guidance of the NCAA and the institutional policy, there has to be a type of quid pro quo. This means a bargain for exchange. Something has to be done in exchange for something. When things are disclosed to our office, we are looking for that valid quid pro quo,” said Breske.

NIL is in its early stages and the NCAA and the states are trying to define the regulations. Questions have been raised that NIL could become free agency just like professional sports. At this moment there isn’t any proof of that happening, but it isn’t something people are hiding to talk about. The transfer portal has also changed rapidly since the advancement of NIL, but players are not supposed to be lured away from a school due to money.

“I think eventually we will get to the point where agents are shopping around student athletes for the highest bidder. That’s what you don’t want to have happen, but it's kind of inevitable. So we will have to have a plan for that. The focus of NIL is on student athletes promoting themselves through marketing and brand deals,” said Harris.

With the introduction of NIL, MSU athletes have deals with all different kinds of brands and companies. One of the major sponsorships is SD4L, which stands for Spartan Dawgs For Life.

At the end of the day, Our goal is to create a sustainable NIL model that can support all student athletes and give all student athletes an equal opportunity to participate in NIL

SD4L has become a main contributor for athletes at MSU. SD4L have released apparel and also memberships to support the athletes. Some of the memberships include signed autographs, passes to tailgates, and entries to a giveaway.

“SD4L recently has signed on as an official sponsor of Michigan State. They are one of the collectives that support student athletes just like Meijer and Jimmy Johns,” said Breske.

However, on Sept. 30, it was revealed the SD4L organization was experiencing financial issues, and it would be cutting some deals with football players.

SD4L is one example of Spartan athletes getting involved. Another example was athletes teaming up with Wing Snob for their grand opening. Men’s basketball player Malik Hall, women’s basketball player Mo Joiner, and women’s soccer players Zivana Labovic and Reagan Cox were at the grand opening on Sept. 15 to support the new restaurant.

NIL has given athletes a chance to profit off their name, image and likeness. NIL has changed the landscape of collegiate athletics allowing a new world of competition between schools.

“It's always a race to the top and now it is an NIL arms race. We are always in competition with other schools. At the end of the day, Our goal is to create a sustainable NIL model that can support all student athletes and give all student athletes an equal opportunity to participate in NIL,” said Harris.

Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!