Gophers Football on NIL: Name, Image and Likeness

During the Big Ten Media Days on Thursday, July 22, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., Gophers football head coach PJ Fleck and three of his top players discussed NIL opportunities and their ideal brand partnerships.


Minnesota Daily File Photo

A Gophers football player watches from the sidelines during a game on Sept. 16, 2017.

Matthew Kennedy

Name, image and likeness (NIL) chatter was heard in almost every interview taking place during the 2021 Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 22.

Gophers football head coach P.J. Fleck, running back Mohamed Ibrahim, quarterback Tanner Morgan and defensive lineman Boye Mafe all weighed in on their experience so far dealing with sponsorships and agents in this new era in collegiate athletics.

The NIL rule was put in place after a long debate on whether student athletes should be able to make money off of their own name, image and likeness. One school that was most notably punished for having a player making money off of his name, image and likeness was the University of Southern California (USC) and their former star running back Reggie Bush.

In 2010, Bush forfeited his 2005 Heisman trophy after an NCAA investigation concluded that he had received improper benefits while playing at USC. Subsequently, the NCAA denounced the Trojans of their 2004 national title and USC had to vacate 14 wins from their 2004 and 2005 seasons.

Every statline allocated from Bush during those years was either erased or had asterisks placed by each, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now that it is not a problem for college student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness, there will not be any situations like the infamous Bush case in 2005.

For anyone unfamiliar with NIL, this is how the NCAA describes it via their website:

  • Individuals can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities may be a resource for state law questions.
  • College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.
  • Individuals can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
  • Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.

This new policy now allows all NCAA D1, D2 and D3 student-athletes to be financially compensated for their name, image, and likeness as of July 1, 2021, regardless of whether their state has a NIL law in place.

For Morgan and Ibrahim, their first choice for a NIL deal would be Chipotle. This is due to their ultimate love for the popular Mexican eatery.

Morgan’s favorite dish at Chipotle is a burrito bowl with a tortilla on the side, double chicken, beans, lettuce and cheese, while Ibrahim’s is a steak quesadilla.

Morgan would also adore being sponsored by Tony’s Diner, which in his mind is “the best breakfast food on campus.”

Fleck said he would be in favor of Morgan’s choice with Tony’s Diner, “This is no NIL and I’m not getting paid to say this: Tony knows I love gyros, and his diner can make a mean gyro.”

For Mafe, his dreams “go beyond the gridiron.” He is attending the University of Minnesota to achieve a master’s degree in Business and Marketing Education and will not partake in any NIL deals. Yet, if Mafe did, he would choose Walley’s for his first NIL deal, a falafel joint in Dinkytown.

Mafe at Wally’s always orders a 32, Spicy Musahab Chicken Plate. “Get yellow rice on it instead of fries,” Mafe said.

According to Ibrahim, the Gophers coaching staff has had “extensive meetings” to go through the ins-and-outs of name, image and likeness.

“I’m fired up about name, image and likeness,” Fleck said during the Big Ten Media Days on Thursday, July 22. “I think it’s tremendous. Our location, the Twin Cities area, with 3.5 million people and the 18 Fortune 500 companies, this isn’t a small college town, we have businesses galore.”

Fleck also made it clear in his press conference on Thursday, July 22 that his coaching staff first and foremost wants to “educate” their athletes before they are thrown into the sponsorship gauntlet.

NIL is now a major part of the Gopher For Life program which educates players on finances, taxes, and other life skills when they leave the Minnesota football program.