Finding The NIL Balance: A Parents Perspective on Controlling Expectations and Taking Advantage of NIL Opportunities

NIL Parent Perspective

It is a new era in college athletics and the new NIL legislation creates new opportunities for college athletes that will add to their educational experience.  However, new opportunities will not come without challenges, responsibility and controlling expectations.   Parents & Guardians play a vital role in controlling the expectations for their sons and daughters in this space.  Coaches and administrators will not only have to deal with playing time, performance in the classroom, but controlling the expectations of the potential earnings in the NIL arena.  

I have always believed that the experiences of being a college athlete is the best paid internship to prepare you for life and your professional career path. Regardless of the career path, the experiences you learned as a collegiate athlete will pay you back many times over in dividends for years to come. The preparation time athletes put into their sport, the experiences in the locker room, the practice field, game day, how you deal with success and failure and the relationships that you build will help you in your professional career whatever career path you choose. The education and lessons learned through your participation in your respective collegiate sport compliments what you learn in the classroom and can provide you an advantage in both your professional and personal life. Now layer in the new NIL opportunities and you are learning in real time what it takes to evaluate business opportunities and to learn basics skills needed to operate  your own business.  If done right the NIL experiences will be another educational value and skillset the student-athlete will have when they complete their collegiate experience. However, NIL will be met with challenges for coaches and administrators.

Controlling expectations from parents and the athletes will be important.   

Although athletic scholarships can vary by sport, relatively the value of a full scholarship is the same across all sports.  However, NIL will be market driven based on the type of opportunity, geographic region, national vs local and the expected brand value of the student-athlete.  In other words, all NIL opportunities will not be created equal and will vary by opportunity and be quite different based on the brand value of the athlete.  NIL will be much different than the one size fits all scholarship model.  Performance on the field may not always equate to the NIL value in the marketplace. A bad decision off the field will cost you NIL opportunities and the athlete’s monetary outcome.

Time management has always been a key to a successful student-athlete.  

The NIL opportunities will have to be prioritized along with classroom and sport participation obligations. Parents, coaches, administrators, and the athletes will all play a vital role in controlling the expectations in this space.  Some NIL opportunities will be more turnkey than others so it will be important to understand the time commitments on the front end.

Educate yourself on the best practices and obligations required to fulfill a NIL opportunity.

Parents should become educated with the various NIL opportunities, understanding the third party’s role and to ensure they have the best interests of your son or daughter.  It will also be important to understand the brand and product or service you are representing and ensure that it aligns with your individual brand and that it doesn’t conflict with any of your values or the schools’ values and code of conduct.   If you are not familiar with a particular topic in this space, just ask the person who oversees NIL on your campus.  Ask questions and educate yourself if you are not familiar with a specific opportunity.  It is ok to not know all the answers.

Much will be learned with NIL over the next few years, by all. 

If you need to be educated on a topic most schools will or should have educational resources in place to assist you. It is also important to understand your federal, state, and local tax obligations for NIL payments and whether this will have any impact on your need based financial aid package from the university.   Better to understand this up front rather than waiting until your NIL has already been spent and you have an unexpected tax obligation or reduction in financial aid package.  

Don’t get caught up in what others are earning through NIL, rather learn from each other’s successes and failures.  

If you have a particular interest or skillset explore how an NIL opportunity can provide you additional exposure or experience in an area of interest. Beside the additional monetary value, use this as an opportunity to build on your skill sets that will be useful for the long-term.  Planning, preparation, and performance will not only determine your on-field successes, but these three principles will also determine your success in the NIL arena. Treat it as an educational opportunity and building skills for the future and it will add to your already valuable experiences of being a student-athlete.  I recently talked to a former collegiate athlete, and they were concerned about not having the internship experiences other students could participate in because of time constraints based on their sports involvement.  I reminded them- and brought to their attention- the skills they were able to perfect by being a student-athlete. The NIL opportunities will only add to this unique experience of being a collegiate athlete but provide another advantage of the skills necessary to be successful in the marketplace.  NIL cannot only add to the monetary value of being a collegiate athlete but can also round out your overall collegiate educational experience.    

Keith and Pam Martin have been around college athletics their entire adult life.   Keith was a student-athlete at the University of Kentucky and Pam was a student trainer at UK at the same time.   They have 3 sons Josh, Zack and Nick who all played college football and two are currently playing in the NFL.   Keith also spent 29 years at the NCAA and has watched first- hand how the landscape has changed in the collegiate space over time, and how current and future collegiate athletes can learn new skills as part of their educational experience.

Keith Martin


Keith Martin is a highly experienced CPA who has dedicated over 30 years of his career to working in the field of intercollegiate athletics. He has worked extensively with the NCAA, where he spent approximately 29 years, and has made significant contributions to the organization's financial operations and compliance efforts.