Non-Revenue DU Athletes May Be Big Beneficiaries of Name, Image and Likeness Guidelines

Want a golf lesson from DU golf phenom, Anna Zanusso? You may have to pay for it.

The NCAA is moving to a standard approach to Name Image and Likeness (NIL) for student-athletes beginning in 2021. While details are currently being worked out, a surprising beneficiary of the new regulations may be non-revenue athletes.

A board of collegiate athletic administrators and student-athletes are working on developing guardrails around any future name, image and likeness activities. These new regulations would include no such activities that are ‘pay for play’ or have any school or conference involvement; no use of name, image and likeness for recruiting by schools or boosters; and the regulation of agents and advisors. A California law, Bill 206, and other potential state or federal legislation allows athletes to market themselves for money – pushing the NCAA to develop guidelines that would regulate college athletics on a national level. The California law and other proposed measures ultimately would lead to pay for play and turn college athletes into university employees. The NCAA argues, rightfully so, that standardized guidelines ensure the uniformity of rules and a level playing field for student-athletes.

Up until this new legislation is developed and passed, Division I student-athletes are not allowed to promote or endorse a commercial product or service, even if they are not paid to participate in the activity. Athletes could request a waiver from the NCAA to continue participating in non-athletically related promotional activities if they were initiated before college enrollment.

Interestingly, non-revenue sports may provide some unique opportunities -at least for top athletes. Think about the University of Denver and the current sports menu. What about all-American gymnast Maddie Karr promoting a local gymnastics center? Getting private golf lessons from Anna Zanusso at Cherry Hills Country Club? Women’s All-American skier Storm Klomhaus sponsoring Winter Park Ski area and promoting Swix ski wax? Or, what about Ethan Walker making personal appearances at lacrosse stores around Denver?

While the tendency is to think that only revenue sports of football and basketball will benefit from NIL, there may be niche areas where non-revenue sport athletes actually do quite well. Plus, in a town like Denver, professional athletes absorb most of the advertising oxygen for their respective sports. Weekend warriors and families are mostly engaged in non-revenue sports like swimming, golf, tennis, and skiing.

Locally, CU recently announced their “Buffs with a Brand” initiative which will provide all their student-athletes a comprehensive program emphasizing personal brand management, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy.  Imagine the potential benefits of a similar program for a school like DU in a large, metropolitan area.

The NCAA governing board directed that any new rules changes must maintain the clear distinction between college sports and professional sports and preserve the higher education focus of the NCAA, reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees. The changes also must account for the unique recruiting environment in college sports, which does not exist anywhere else.


  • Discussion of general name, image and likeness concepts at the 2020 NCAA Convention.


  • Updates to each division’s top committee, comprising college and university presidents and chancellors.


  • Continued discussion among member schools and feedback on legislative concepts.


  • Deadline for submission of 2021 legislative proposals.


  • Anticipated vote by each division on name, image and likeness rules at the 2021 NCAA Convention.

Photo Courtesy of Denver Athletics

3 thoughts on “Non-Revenue DU Athletes May Be Big Beneficiaries of Name, Image and Likeness Guidelines”

  1. If Anna accepts money for giving a lesson, she would be ineligible for the US Amateur

    1. Interesting point. This will begin to blur the difference between professional and Amateur for sure. We should have the final details until 2021.

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