Zach Harrison, an aspiring Ohio State defensive star, was seated behind a table for an autograph signing at an Easton store on Sunday afternoon when he was approached by Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith .
Dozens of fans had been whistled by Harrison and two other teammates, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and linebacker Teradja Mitchell, for the previous hour at Conrads College Gifts. They paid $ 25 for one signature or up to $ 65 for all three.
The scene led to some easy banter as Smith reached number one.
“I know you’re up to buy something,” Harrison snapped.
“I can’t pay you guys!” He retaliated.
Name, image, look-alike rules to bring more public appearances of college athletes
Their presence offered the final window into the new era of varsity sport that enables athletes to earn money through the use of their name, image and likeness. One afternoon three days before the start of the Ohio State preseason camp, the players together signed more than 200 autographs at an event hosted by their new management agency.
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The prevalence of public appearances in Columbus and across the country is likely to expand as college athletes increasingly profit from NIL businesses.
With NCAA restrictions on payments in place for decades, stores like Conrads were limited to inviting former players for signings or get-togethers. Current players were banned until the rule changes took effect on July 1.
None of the Buckeyes had big plans for spending their extra money. They were all fairly careful.
“I’m smart with the money,” Mitchell said. “I won’t spend anything until I understand how taxes work. I’m still learning, so I’m keeping a low profile.
Garrett, aware of the financial issues some athletes face in retirement, has retained the services of a financial advisor to help him invest his money.
“There is the story that athletes go bankrupt two to three years after finishing their profession,” he said.
He further predicted that NIL’s opportunities will provide better financial education for future generations of gamers.
“I don’t think you are really taught that in college,” Garrett said, “because there is so much that you invest in football and school. Those are the only two things you do. you think.
If the players were ever responsible for managing the money, it was with attendance allowances.
But these were given to help cover living expenses, and Garrett sees them as ineffective lessons. They spent the money rather than saving it.
“When you get that allowance check, it’s like, ‘Oh, I have five coins in a Pizza Hut, and I know tomorrow, next month, next week, I’m going to have another check.’ “, did he declare. . “That’s not how it works in the real world.”
Coach Ryan Day spoke to NIL with the team earlier this summer and urged players to be smart with their money.
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Referring to the advice, Harrison vowed he would spend his income on “nothing stupid.”
Find the balance between NIL opportunities, team responsibilities
On the eve of preseason training and a roster of games that will span the final four months of 2021, players will be tasked with balancing potential deals with squad activities.
A Sunday signing in September or October would conflict with afternoon meetings and practices. Mitchell suggests he could do an event on Monday, a day off for the Buckeyes. This is also why their management company sets up possibilities adapted to their schedules.
Lots of promotions will likely happen on social media, where athletes can promote products on their profiles.
Day sees this trend as likely to limit time management issues for gamers. They can easily schedule promotional posts during their downtime.
Public appearances would then be more likely to take place during the off-season and summer months, when there are more free hours in the day.
Ahead of Sunday’s signing at Conrads, a line of people stretched out a block outside the door, brought in after seeing billboards around Easton and online ads promoting Harrison, Garrett and Mitchell.
After a season of playing in empty stadiums across the Big Ten, players enjoyed the interactions.
“Especially with COVID, it’s been a while,” Mitchell said. “It’s a blessing to see their faces, to see the smiles on their faces and to see their support. It’s awesome.
Fans have largely wished them good luck heading into the season as they signed photos, football, mini helmets and more.
In addition to writing their names on Ohio State clothing, players also used custom branded clothing for autographs.
With a degree in fashion and retail studies, Mitchell launched a clothing brand called Above The Realm earlier this month.
Garrett and Harrison also had personal T-shirts. The equipment was sold on the store shelves alongside the various Ohio State t-shirts and sweatshirts.
In the emerging era, they too have brands to exhibit.