For years now, the debate around whether or not college athletes should be paid for the time and energy they dedicate to their on-field performance has been one of the hottest topics in all of sports. As the money in college athletics has grown exponentially in recent years, this debate has only become of increasing importance as the athletes are forced to immerse themselves in their respective sports more and more.
Now we are witnessing the first examples of college athletes being paid after the NCAA implemented changes that allow said athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and/or likeness (NIL) for the first time in history. 18-year-old college freshmen are receiving millions of dollars in some cases and are essentially being treated as if they have already made it to the pros while simultaneously pursuing a college education that can open a myriad of doors in their future.
One young man, in particular, is taking it a step further. Current Penn State University quarterback Sean Clifford has been reaping the benefits of the NCAA’s new NIL rules. The new standards have allowed numerous young men to take advantage of the positions they’ve garnered. Clifford is setting up his own company to represent college athletes in the pursuit of NIL deals as this newfound system continues to evolve.
While Clifford has his sights set on the NFL, it is impossible to ignore the implications of the NCAA relaxing its restrictions regarding paying college athletes. These implications are the driving force behind the inception of his new company Limitless NIL. Clifford’s agency will operate just like any other in representing college athletes as they explore their newfound opportunities to utilize their name in the hopes of benefitting financially. It has been believed by many for some time now that the inability college athletes had was an incredibly unfair and cumbersome restriction given how much money they were responsible for generating as the representatives of college athletics. Let’s not neglect the inability to pursue other opportunities to make money given the constraints of being a student-athlete; now the floodgates have finally opened for them, but at what cost?
Clifford has spoken about the hurdles he faced when he pursued NIL opportunities last year and made over $100,000 with relative ease. He explained how he had lackluster experience working with professional agencies. The QB would often find himself helping younger teammates through the process, inspiring him to formulate the company. In a conversation with ESPN, he said that Limitless NIL is “the agency that I was looking for but couldn’t find. It’s for the players, by the players. I wanted to do something to leave even more of a legacy than just on the field. And I thought that this was kind of the way that I wanted to go."
Clifford filed the paperwork to officially form Limitless NIL at the end of January. Since then, they have signed seven college athletes from three different schools and will represent them in pursuing NIL deals moving forward. There have already been offers rolling in. For example, Penn State safety Ji’Ayir Brown. Brown is currently in agreement with Snap Custom Pizza to make a custom pizza that will use his likeness in promotional and marketing efforts. Clifford’s unique perspective as a college athlete is going to serve him especially well in this venture. It has allowed him to see the lapses made by other professional agencies in working with college athletes simply because they don’t understand the ins and outs of college athletics as well as they do on the professional level, and he is prepared to take full advantage of it.
He noted that the "bigger agencies lack the strategy for content creation and the marketing specialty” that is required at the collegiate level to be successful in the NIL space. Something as simple as “building their brand and interacting with the community” is crucial to building their careers during the early stages. Limitless NIL will look to avoid making those same mistakes while setting up their clients for success and providing them with the resources to expand upon their brands. We are witnessing the beginning of NIL deals for college athletes, and Limitless NIL is likely the first major agency dedicated specifically to aiding college athletes in the pursuit of those deals.
Written by: Gavin Saxon