Saturday, February 4, 2023

What is NIL when it comes to student-athletes?

By Allie Moore

IMC Student

Walker Jones

As if college athletics wasn’t exciting and fast enough, the NCAA, a little over a year ago, passed its NIL policy allowing student-athletes to make money off their names, images, and likenesses. 

Even in the midst of the chaos and newness of this NCAA policy, it was important to act fast and get involved in the NIL space. 

Hence, the Grove Collective, which is the Ole Miss exclusive NIL program, was formed.

“We are an NIL platform for all sports, male or female, revenue or non-revenue,” said Walker Jones, executive director of the Grove Collective. “Our mission is to create and enhance the NIL opportunities for all student-athletes at Ole Miss as well as protect their well-being and eligibility.”

With Jones being a former Ole Miss linebacker from 1996-98, it is no surprise that he is the one to lead this program.

The Grove Collective works with the Ole Miss Athletics department and coordinates with the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation to fund this initiative for student-athletes. 

“At first, there were four different collectives raising money for Ole Miss athletes in the NIL world,” Jones said. “My plan with Keith Carter [the Ole Miss Athletic Director] was to go to those four and consolidate them under one roof.”

In a world where student-athletes are able to make NIL money, debates often arise. 

Some think that it is great and have been waiting for this to take place, while others think the opposite and see it as ruining collegiate sports.

“My perception, initially, was negative toward all this, too,” Jones said. “But, the more I got involved and the more I researched it, the more that I realized that what is reported out there isn’t true.”

Naturally, with anything fresh on the surface, it can be difficult to not be fed with false information. And it’s easy to get confused because no one is really sure what and what not to believe.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and people assume it’s this blood sport with bidding and players hating each other for getting paid more than the other,” Jones said. “I haven’t seen it as that. I have seen the players embrace it as a way to make ends meet.”

Since the passing of NIL and the start of the Grove Collective, Jones has mentioned that he has seen student-athletes use their compensation wisely towards either personal funding needs, traveling, family, or charitable initiatives.

However, it is much more than financial benefits. NIL allows student-athletes to learn some critical life skills that will go way further in life than just their athleticism.

“The athletes are really grateful, and it makes an impact in a really good way,” Jones said. “It gives them some means to network, learn how to run a campaign, pay taxes, and manage a budget. If we’re doing all those things, then we’re making a positive impact.”

The Grove Collective gets all of its support and ways to compensate student-athletes through membership programs. There are different levels on how to get involved. To help Ole Miss student-athletes, visit: https://thegrovecollective.com/.


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