FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday signed an executive order granting college athletes in Kentucky the right to profit off their name, image and likeness, or NIL.
“This action ensures we are not at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, and also that our student athletes have the same rights and opportunities as those in other states," Gov. Beshear said in a news release. "For any individual athlete, their name, image and likeness are their own and no one else’s.”
The order comes a week before six states are set to have laws go into effect granting athletes within their borders NIL rights.
The looming deadline has put pressure on the NCAA to implement a universal standard that would allow schools within all 50 states to compete on an even playing field. The body’s preference has been for Congress to act on the matter. Legislation stalled in the Senate earlier this month though, all but eliminating the chance that a NIL standard will be in place by July 1.
The latest reports suggest that the NCAA is likely to allow schools in states that do not have a NIL law to set their own policies.
Leaders from Kentucky's major public universities praised Beshear's executive order Thursday.
“On behalf of our student athletes at the University of Louisville, we are incredibly grateful for Gov. Beshear’s executive order allowing them to earn compensation based on their name, image and likeness,” University of Louisville Athletic Director Vince Tyra said in the governor's news release. “Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical."
Tyra's counterpart in Lexington, Mitch Barnhart, said the executive order "provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness (NIL)." He added: "We are extremely well-positioned to help our student athletes navigate this new and complex terrain."
Indeed, both the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky have been preparing for the inevitability of new NIL rules for years. Both schools have programs that help athletes build their brands. Now they can help monetize those brands.
UofL has ELEVATE and UK has The Kentucky Road. Both programs provide athletes with social media content they can use to gain followers and expand their reach. They also offer training on social media, branding, and in the case of UK women’s basketball star Rhyne Howard, web design.
The players are ready for the rule change too. In the past week, football players for UofL and UK have sent tweets soliciting endorsements and ideas to capitalize on their NIL.
“Anybody have any ideas for name image and likeness I’m just trying to brainstorm,” Wildcats linebacker DeAndre Square tweeted Monday.
The opportunities available to Square once Beshear's executive order goes into effect on July 1 will include endorsement products, getting paid to sign autographs and posting about products on social media in exchange for cash.
One local athlete who stands to benefit most from these new rules is Hailey Van Lith, the second-year guard for Louisville’s women’s basketball team. Van Lith has more than 700,000 followers on Instagram, leading one athlete marketing firm to recently estimate that she could net nearly a million dollars annually for sponsored social media posts.
Her coach, Jeff Walz, was among those who praised Beshear's signing of the order. “This is the right thing to do," he said in the governor's news release. "This allows our student-athletes to enhance their profile in the profession of their choice. This is about opportunity, and we are all for it.”