Wildcats aim to use team goals to improve NIL deals

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LEXINGTON – Among Kentucky soccer players with the potential to make the most of the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness policy, NFL first-round prospect Darian Kinnard is likely to top the list list.

But Kinnard doesn’t plan to actively seek approval opportunities this fall.

“This is my last year,” Kinnard said. “If it came out maybe two years ago, it might have been a good path I was on my way to. As we approach this final year, we all look back at the end of the season and say, “Man, that flew. I’m just taking this opportunity to really focus on what I need to do, and NIL can wait until I finish my studies.

Kinnard hasn’t completely closed the door on NIL opportunities, but has confirmed that he will “probably not” pursue trades when asked to clarify his intentions.

University of Kentucky offensive lineman Darian Kinnard speaks to the media during the SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency in Hoover, Ala. On Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

That doesn’t seem to be the case for most of Kentucky’s star players.

A handful of Wildcats, including quarterback Will Levis, have signed up for Cameo, a website where fans can pay for personalized video messages from celebrities and athletes. Wide receiver Josh Ali and cornerback Cedrick Dort have signed approval deals with water company KeenH20. Wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson has previously signed with player management company Virtus Brand.

As the season draws closer, the approval opportunities for exceptional players appear likely to increase.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops knows he can’t ignore the problem.

“You have to fix it,” Stoops said in a recent question-and-answer session at the annual preseason kick-off lunch. “I have them at every team meeting I’ve had. … You cannot avoid this. It’s like that. This is how it’s gonna be until someone tells me otherwise.

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Opponents of NIL reform have pointed out that the varying levels of approval payments could create the locker room like a potential landmine.

Whereas Alabama coach Nick Saban revealed in July that Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young, who has yet to start a game, has already signed nearly $ 1 million in ‘sponsorship deals, it’s easy to see how this fear could carry weight.

But the varying degrees of NIL earning potential in a dressing room might not be so different from the previous interpersonal dynamics that teams had to navigate.

“If you think about it, in any locker room, anywhere guys will be upset about the playing time or something,” Kentucky senior defensive end Josh Paschal said. “It’s not uncommon for a college football team to be jealous of their team or something like that, but at the same time, we know how to separate NIL from football.

“At the end of the day, we are a family. We want the best for each of our brothers on the NIL side, but at the same time, when we’re in the facility, it’s strictly the ball. We know that. I feel like we’re doing a great job of separating the two.

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It would be impossible for a team to fully prepare for the seismic change in the varsity sports landscape created by the NIL reform, but veteran teams like Kentucky could have an advantage.

Paschal, a team captain and one of the most recognizable players on Kentucky’s roster, has not ruled out signing NIL deals but said he is not actively pursuing endorsement opportunities. Consistent presences like Paschal and Kinnard should help Stoops make it clear that the easiest path for players to increase their NIL earning potential is to perform well as a team.

“Our players care about each other,” Stoops said. “In this new era of name, image and likeness it can divide a team, but we are very strong. … I feel as good as ever in the leadership of our team. “

Email Jon Hale at [email protected]; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.

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