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Clark Phillips III’s sweet new ride is among the spoils NIL is bringing Ute athletes

Utah student-athletes cashing in on name, image and likeness opportunities

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Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III lines up during practice for the Rose Bowl at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.

Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III lines up during practice for the Rose Bowl at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. Phillips bought a new Mustang with proceeds from his NIL deal.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Now that college athletes can profit from their name, image and likeness, business opportunities are popping up all over the country.

And that’s certainly been the case at Utah, where athletes, like cornerback Clark Phillips III, are benefitting. 

Thanks to NIL, he recently made a big, splashy purchase. 

“One thing that I wanted was a nice car,” Phillips said. “I got a red Mustang because it’s red and we’re Utah. I was good right there.”

Quarterback Cam Rising declined to give any details about anything he’s bought through NIL. 

“One thing that I wanted was a nice car. I got a red Mustang because it’s red and we’re Utah. I was good right there.” — Utah defensive back Clark Phillips III

“Nothing too groundbreaking. But it’s been good,” he said. “I’ve been trying to be smart with my money and making sure I’m handling it with care and acting accordingly with my money. … It’s (the NIL process) been treating us well. We can’t complain. Utah has been taking care of us. It’s been positive. It’s a tricky, unknown process but it’s been good. There’s nothing I would change at the moment.”

College athletics is a billion-dollar industry and now student-athletes are able to earn revenue for their efforts. Of course, the amount of income depends on the athlete. While not all student-athletes can buy cars, having some extra spending money helps. 

“NIL has definitely been a good thing. It’s something that college football was looking for for a while,” Phillips said. “The biggest thing is, most guys aren’t really struggling anymore. It shouldn’t be a thing where guys don’t have a couple of dollars in their pockets to go get a sandwich or a burger. That’s been one of the biggest things. It’s been great for us.”

On the other side of this issue is the coaching staff, which must now deal with questions from recruits about NIL. It’s something coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff is navigating now in terms of recruiting.

“NIL has had a big impact. I think we’re on the right road towards getting that all solidified, getting our ducks in a row. It definitely is becoming more prevalent in recruiting,” he said. “This ’23 class, that’s part of the equation. When you recruit, those are questions you get asked, you’ve got to have answers for. It’s becoming more and more of a decision-maker for the kids.”

Meanwhile, it’s unclear how effectively the NCAA is monitoring the NIL landscape.

“Where it’s going to go, who knows. I don’t know what parameters or guardrails we’re going to be able to put on it,” Whittingham said. “I don’t know if it can happen unless it happens at the government level. Right now there doesn’t seem to be a lot of enforcement of the NIL structure that’s laid out. We’ll have to see what happens.”

As part of the process of deciding where they should sign, recruits are looking to optimize ways to monetize their name, image and likeness. 

Phillips has noticed that recruits that come to campus ask a lot of questions about NIL opportunities. 

“Most definitely. NIL is a new thing. It’s definitely part of recruitment. Guys ask, ‘Hey, what is your NIL like? What’s your market like?’” he said. “‘Who’s going to work with me? Who’s going to make me some money other than playing?’ That’s definitely a factor now.”

The NCAA’s board of directors adopted an interim rule paving the way for NIL activity that began on July 1, 2021, allowing student-athletes to receive financial compensation. 

In June 2021, Utah announced the creation of Elevate U., which helps Ute student-athletes capitalize on name, image and likeness opportunities.

The school also launched a major initiative two months ago, an NIL marketplace through a partnership with INFLCR.

Meanwhile, at Florida, a former Gators baseball player conceived the idea of creating a business model that collected money from boosters to offer opportunities for student-athletes to capitalize on NIL. And NIL collectives were born. 

At Utah, there’s UtahLockerRoom.com, which is a fan collective. It invites Ute fans to interact with student-athletes with NIL opportunities. 

“Everyone wanted guys to be able to profit. The idea of having name, image and likeness is special because guys can take something away and put it in their pocket,” Phillips said. “I don’t know the best way to do it but I just know that the best thing is to put money in guys’ pockets, whether that’s salary or NIL. I like how they started it. Who knows what it’s going to look like in 10 years, right?”

Phillips appreciates the way Utah’s administration has helped the student-athletes find their way with all of the implications of NIL legislation, such as paying taxes on earned income.

“The administration has done a great job of getting us up to speed on things like taxes. Guys don’t think about that until April,” he said. “To me, it wasn’t something I thought about until the administration was like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this now.’ It’s all of those things you don’t think about until you start making money and have a job.

“Those small things can be a big thing if you let it slide. And conversations with people that are in the workforce really helped me out and internships I’m able to be a part of with the business school really helped me as well. I hate financial classes but they came in handy when I needed them.”

Members of the Utah football team walk onto the field for the game against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Utah QB Cameron Rising (No. 7) is among a number of Utes who have benefitted from NIL deals, which allow student-athletes to cash in on their name, image and likeness.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News