The college sports scene has changed drastically since Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) was legalized by the NCAA back on July 1, 2021. That has allowed collegiate athletes around the country to monetize their image, cashing in on sponsorship to increase their brand and put some money in their pockets. 

From podcasts to television commercials, athletes are taking full advantage of this new era, but with that also comes change. When it comes to collegiate sports being covered by journalists and major media networks, that change is already starting to appear both nationally and in local markets. 

Max Olson, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate and senior college football writer for The Athletic, said it’s still a situation where everyone is trying to get a grasp on what’s going to happen. 

“I think that a lot of us are kind of sitting back and trying to figure out where this is all going and trying to understand,” Olson said. “There are going to be those who are going to iterate and they’re going to be people that figured out much more organized systems for doing this. I think a lot of people probably feared that this is collective or just straight up using this as a recruiting inducement.” 

That’s been a common sentiment among college football reporters, even from Parker Gabriel, former Nebraska football beat reporter who covered the Huskers for the Lincoln Journal Star from 2017 to 2022. 

“Any change in my job actually has been about reporting on how it (NIL) works,” Gabriel said. “Like, what the structure looks like and how kids get paid, sort of reporting on all of that and how Nebraska fits into the national landscape and what they’re doing, what they’re not doing that’s been the bigger change.” 

As a result of NIL, collegiate athletes have never been more aware of their own brand and how they can increase  visibility that ultimately leads to more sponsorship opportunities. One of the biggest changes for Olson and media members everywhere is the process of interviewing athletes. 

“It’s been interesting when we (The Athletic) have a podcast and sometimes we will book athletes and sometimes we’ll go through the people that manage them or the people that even just go to them directly because they have their own podcast,” Olson said. “It’s more of an NFL thing as opposed to asking a favor of the media relations person. That distinction has been a little bit interesting so far.” 

On a more local level for Gabriel, that isn’t quite the case. 

“I think it’s been more like the opposite and they’re more proactive,” Gabriel said. “Cam Jurgens, I don’t know that he was protective of his brand when he was talking during the season, but he wore Beef Jurgy stuff all the time.” 

The business dealings have escalated quickly in the eight months NIL has been passed including in high school sports. According to multiple reports from national media, a top college football recruit signed to a school for an $8 million NIL deal which marks the biggest ever. 

But even as NIL and college football evolve together, so will the coverage. Despite the college and professional leagues blending closer and closer every day, Olson doesn’t think it will go quite that far. 

“I think that it’s going to be different,” Olson said. “I don’t think it’s going to drift all the way in that direction. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that what I love about my job is getting to meet people and getting to learn their stories and tell their stories and try to do it the right way. I think it’s really cool to see some student athletes say, ‘Well, who can tell my story better than me?’”

My name is Geoff Exstrom and I am a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I pursuing a major in both Sports Media and Broadcast Production. Along with school, I am also a sports writer for the Lincoln Journal Star covering numerous high school and collegiate sporting events. I am also the Sports Director for 90.3 KRNU - UNL's student radio station. I've also had the great opportunity to create many podcasts throughout my media career including Athletes Unfiltered, the podcast hosted by myself as well as former Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez.