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Can Cougars compete for big endorsements?

The race is on with athletes able to sign with companies and earn money

BYU running back Lopini Katoa, back left, laughs while chatting with teammates during BYU football media day.
BYU running back Lopini Katoa, back left, laughs while chatting with teammates during BYU football media day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

This article was first published as the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

College sports is now carrying the challenge of its athletes working out their own financial deals outside of the program. BYU now competes for recruits who are looking for opportunities to make money with their name, image and likeness. How do the Cougars stack up?

It is too early to tell. But there is momentum, organized representation, a fallback support system and opportunities opening up every day, beginning with a lip balm company out of Eagle, Idaho, which signed two BYU football players to represent its company.

In days to come, we will see more opportunities announced. Thing is, BYU cannot do the announcing, promoting or marketing for the athletes; they must do it themselves with the help of an agency from outside campus.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: How will BYU athletes do with the NIL rule change by the NCAA?

Jay Drew: I think BYU athletes are as poised to benefit from the NIL legislation recently passed by the NCAA as much, if not more, than their peers across the country. That’s mostly due to the uniqueness of BYU and its standing as the flagship institution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Obviously, there are more than 15 million members of the church worldwide. That’s a big audience.

And to a lot of those folks, BYU athletes are their heroes. So the market is there.

Already, BYU football players Tyler Batty and Austin Riggs — not even household names to the most ardent of BYU football fans, have inked a deal with Balmshot, a family-owned company that sells lip balm encased in shotgun shells.

I’ve been told that more than a dozen BYU athletes have signed NIL deals, but they are responsible for making those deals public. The school won’t do it for them. For instance, basketball star Alex Barcello said on his Instagram page recently that he has a deal in the works. That’s no surprise: Barcello is one of the most high-profile athletes at the school right now.

Dick Harmon: The fun thing about the NCAA rule change is that mega cheaters who once did it in secret, now have to face competition from other programs who lived by the rules and now have athletes who can negotiate and receive benefits out in the open on their own initiative. In time, the communities that are close-knit, organized and successful supporters of their college partners will see more sustained success. BYU fits in this category.

With the country’s largest living alumni numbers, BYU athletes are positioned to take advantage of this like only a few others. Consider: The owner of the Utah Jazz is Ryan Smith, a billionaire who is a huge BYU booster (through his company, Qualtrics) and primary backer to get basketball coach Mark Pope hired. BYU’s school of business management has spread CEOs all across the country and Utah has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country.

It doesn’t have to be connections with big corporations to make it work because a myriad of small businesses when put to task, can absolutely make a difference. From real estate, title, mortgage companies, restaurants and car dealerships to manufacturing and multi-level marketing, BYU has plenty of places for athletes to earn money on both a local and national basis.

I predict BYU athletes will be among the leaders nationally because it won’t just be the most identifiable players that get contracts, it will be a broad group of them in every sport. It will work because those companies will see a greater return on their investment worldwide that may not be realized at that same rate in other communities that are not as closely linked by the church, faith and alumni.

Cougar tales

Former BYU golfer Mike Weir, a former Masters champion, finished second in the U.S. Senior Open that had four former Cougars involved. Locally, in the Utah State Amateur Championship at Alpine Country Club this week, current and former Cougars are expected to play a key role in who wins. BYU’s golf team had three players sweep the U.S. Open qualifying held at Alpine Country Club last week, a feat that has to have head coach Bruce Brockbank smiling this summer.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

BYU may have landed a pass-rushing gem from Orem (@byu_insider)

Jaren Hall ranks 49th in college QBs (@WestCoastCFF)

Wilson weekend is selling out fast (@CriddleBenjamin)

Cougars getting ready to go (@WilgarPayton)

BYU early on legacy DB Rice (@BYU_News)

Extra points

  • Former BYU pitcher at All-Star Game (Deseret News)
  • Could Jaren Hall have a breakout season? (Deseret News)
  • Wilson’s uncle chartering fan flight to the Jets game (Deseret News)
  • Is there a Utah team in the latest Bracketology? (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers

Who would know better than the Nacua brothers?

The proof is in their experiences.

— worf

I love to see the red puddle of mess as a result of this article. It’s so entertaining to see the psychological disaster caused by BYU’s success for our favorite two dozen ute “fans.” Get some rest kids and maybe try to find another hobby.

— Natedog1

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