NORMAN — Joe Castiglione called this “one of the most transformational times in the history of our university” and reemphasized Oklahoma’s expected SEC arrival date of July 2025.
Then, OU’s athletic director made himself even more clear on the role name, image and likeness will play in the university’s trajectory speaking Wednesday afternoon.
“This is super important to the future of intercollegiate athletics and our ability to compete at the highest level like we have been doing,” Castiglione explained. “And we want to go all in, with you, with our partners to make it happen.”
That’s how Castiglione opened Wednesday’s “NIL symposium” organized by the Crimson and Cream Collective and the Norman Chamber of Commerce.
Roughly 150 members of the community joined and sat among Sooner athletes including Dillon Gabriel, Drake Stoops, Grant Sherfield and Jalen Hill during the event aimed at educating local businesses on navigating NIL guidelines and working with OU athletes in the space.
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The gathered audience arrived with questions centered around athlete welfare, intellectual property costs and tax write-offs related to NIL. And before the crowd heard from men’s basketball coach Porter Moser, women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler, former OU running back Rodney Anderson and Crimson & Cream CEO Jason Belzer, Castiglione attempted to ease potential anxiety surrounding one of college athletics’ most complicated, recent developments.
“We are going to do one thing well and that’s adapt to change,” he said.
College athletes have been able to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL) since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2021. That decision rejected the NCAA’s “amateurism” argument as an overly broad and outdated defense for failing to allow its student athletes to receive compensation.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of NCAA vs Alston opened the floodgates on NIL across college athletics. It’s also changed the game for coaches like Moser and Kindler, the pair explained Wednesday.
As part of her call to action, Kindler referenced the millions LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne has earned and the “six figures” Utah’s Grace McCallum is pulling in through NIL as points that now come up in recruiting.
“They’re very aware of what’s going on around the country and other programs that are leading the way, I’ll put it that way,” Kindler said of prospective student athletes.”
“I am running into a thing in which that is being considered in recruiting — absolutely,” she continued. “And we have lost athletes because of that very point. It’s really important I think that we become competitive in this.”
Moser explained that five or six years ago questions from recruits centered on factors such as facilities, playing time and academics.
“One of the first questions right now is NIL,” Moser said.
“I can give you numbers of what’s going on and you’d be astonished,” Moser later said. “I love what Joe says — we have to adapt to change. You don’t have to like it. But we have to change with it.”
One of the questions the pair faced came from a former OU student athlete who asked where current athletes are finding the time to manage NIL opportunities while juggling athletic and academic demands.
“They fit it in,” Kindler said. “I’m telling you, they do fit it in somehow. I have not recognized any difference from my athletes. When they are in the gym, they are dialed in. I honestly have not seen any difference whatsoever in their focus or production in the classroom.”
“This generation multitasks,” Moser followed. “This generation is progressive. They’ll find time.”
Other questions were placed to Anderson and Belzer.
Anderson, who ran out of the Sooners backfield from 2015-18, now serves as the manager of NIL Business Development and Operations with OU’s Sooner Sports Properties, dealing in the use of OU’s image and likeness in the NIL space.
Belzer is the founder of Student Athlete NIL, which operates Crimson and Cream, the collective which announced more than $1.6 million dollars in NIL funds raised during a 30-day fundraising window last month.
Are there safeguards or background checks for the business’ athletes enter NIL agreements with, ask one attendee.
“The short answer is that we can’t stop a student athlete from doing whatever they want,” Belzer said. “Crimson and Cream is here and (Sooner Sports Properties) is here to facilitate opportunities.”
“To help protect and keep athletes somewhat monitored, we do disclose all of our business dealing to compliance,” Anderson explained.
What’s the difference between a deal with an individual athlete and a deal with an athlete featuring OU logos and likeness?
Anderson: “Anybody can do a business deal with a student athlete for their god given name, image and likeness. As soon as the marks are introduced into it, that’s the university’s naming, image and likeness. So in order to obtain that, that’ll be a deal done through our office.”
Tax write-offs for NIL contracts?
Belzer: “Any deal that you do is a tax write off. If you’re a business company and you’re going to do an influencer deal, it’s a marketing and advertising expense.”
Some questions gained more detailed responses than others Wednesday. But Castiglione’s message on the matter of NIL was clear.
“It is going to be easier than you think,” he said. “We just have to open the door.”