Feb 16, 2022 - Sports

Report: OSU leads nation in athletes' NIL compensation

 Average name, image and likeness deal value at <b style='color: #bb0000;'>OSU</b> vs. <b style='color: #989898;'>national average</b>
Data: OSU Board of Trustees; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

When Greg Oden was a star on the Buckeyes basketball team 15 years ago, taking even one dollar from a local business would've gotten him in major trouble with the NCAA.

  • Now a graduate assistant for the team, Oden recently appeared in a car dealership advertisement alongside two current Ohio State stars paid thousands of dollars to post the video to social media.

Why it matters: New rules put in place last summer transformed the college athletics landscape by allowing students to profit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL).

  • No school in the country has seen more lucrative deals than Ohio State.
  • This year, brands are paying millions of dollars for Buckeyes to promote everything from restaurants and cryptocurrency to the milk industry.

By the numbers: 225 Ohio State athletes had inked 619 deals adding up to $2.99 million as of Jan. 23 — the highest NIL compensation of any U.S. school, according to an athletics department report to the Board of Trustees.

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, football players earn the vast majority of NIL money on campus.

Yes, but: Every team has at least one athlete getting paid, including swimmers, wrestlers, and rowers.

What they're saying: Even small earnings can help student-athletes, especially when you consider that 30% of Buckeyes compete without sports scholarships, athletic director Gene Smith told Ohio lawmakers last year when they considered enacting NIL legislation.

Zoom in: Among women's teams, gymnastics is the top sport for compensation. Athletes on the team receive nearly $32,000 spread out over 35 contracts.

  • Hours after the NCAA's decision last summer, sophomore gymnast Hannah Oliveros posted her interest in collaborating with brands ahead of the coming school year to Instagram.
  • Her profile now features an Instagram Stories folder titled "for nil," which promotes clothing lines, protein bowls, jewelry and sushi.
  • Gymnasts like Oliveros make an average of $84 for each of these types of posts, per OSU data.
A college athlete's sponsored Instagram post promoting a restaurant's protein bowl.
An example of a sponsored Instagram post from Ohio State gymnast Hannah Oliveros. Via Instagram.

Between the lines: While Ohio State provided broad details on how much the student-athletes earn as a whole, officials are reluctant to offer a comprehensive accounting of individual student athletes' NIL deals.

  • An Axios Columbus public records request for such a list was rejected on the grounds it would violate students' privacy rights, as other schools have also claimed with NIL deals.

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