Game changer: How San Antonio area college athletes are using NIL laws to profit and bolster brands

(Image of Jillian Slaughter from Texas State athletics website. All other images courtesy AP Images.)

SAN ANTONIO – A new era of college athletics is underway and there are several high profile San Antonio area student-athletes who are using the new name, image, likeness (NIL) laws to bolster their brand.

The Supreme Court unanimously decided in June that student-athletes could receive payments based on their name, image and likeness, a first for collegiate athletics.

The NCAA then adopted an interim policy allowing that to be the case as long as individuals engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. And since the start of July, many local college athletes have announced a series of endorsement deals and sponsorships.

Fritz Kennel, a Houston-based business that specializes in dog and cat boarding and day-care, was one of the first businesses to agree to a deal with some popular UTSA student-athletes. The business has partnered with several UTSA football players including standouts Rashad Wisdom, Sincere McCormick, Frank Harris and Brenden Brady. All four are San Antonio high school products.

Pat Clynes is a longtime supporter of UTSA Athletics and owner of the Fritz Kennel. Clynes told KSAT he wanted to partner with the UTSA players under new NIL rules to not only build awareness for his business, but to help educate college athletes on the way business is conducted in the real world, and to answer any questions they may have about opening a business later in life.

Clynes said the players are being compensated for posting social media photos of themselves with their dogs and promoting the Fritz Kennel, but they are not contractually obligated in any way and can exit the deal at any time.

Another reason Clynes said he wanted to get involved was to emphasize that endorsement deals can be made at UTSA and recruits do not have to go to other universities to profit off their name, image and likeness.

In recent weeks, Wisdom, an All-Conference USA player from Judson, partnered with Ancira Auto Group and launched a podcast titled “Out of This World With Rashad Wisdom” along with a YouTube channel. Wisdom says the podcast and YouTube channel offer an inside look at his life as a student-athlete, his upbringing and his goals, including being a mentor and role model for children in Converse and surrounding communities.

Ancira Auto Group also partnered with three more UTSA athletes in different sports. Two in soccer -- Alyssa Blankenship and Kendall Kloza -- and Luke Malone in baseball.

Fellow Judson alum McCormick, who is also an all-conference performer and the preseason Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, partnered locally with 7to7 Dental while Harris, the Roadrunners starting quarterback and Clemens alum, partnered with the Alamo Audible podcast and BSA Sports Lab, a fitness and training center located in Schertz.

Former Wagner standout basketball player and Texas Tech guard Kevin McCullar Jr. partnered with national restaurant chain Raising Cane’s and created his own website, logo and apparel line. McCullar told KSAT part of his endorsement deal with Raising Cane’s involves meet-and-greet events at Raising Cane’s restaurants where proceeds go to charity. He is also working with Raising Cane’s for two episodes of his digital series.

And it’s not just traditional businesses that are reaching agreements with college athletes. The athletes can now profit or build their brand by partnering with popular websites or from their following on social media. Austin Ortega, a long snapper for the University of Nevada football team and former Reagan Rattler posted on Twitter earlier this month that he is part of Barstool Athletics.

Jill Slaughter, a former Madison High School star and current Texas State Bobcat volleyball player, is also part of the Barstool Athletics team. Slaughter has 386,000 followers on TikTok.

(Jill Slaughter image via Texas State Volleyball.)

NIL laws vary from state to state and in an effort to navigate these laws, many universities and compliance departments created programs to help their student-athletes. Prior to NIL laws passing, UTSA unveiled the Runners Go Bold program. It is a comprehensive name, image and likeness program that will provide UTSA student-athletes with the knowledge and skills to build their personal brands and to maximize their platforms.

With the door now open to thousands of student-athletes to profit off their name, this is likely only the tip of the iceberg in the new world of collegiate athletics, where the players are finally seeing some profit from a multi-million dollar industry.

About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.