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For Many Schools, NIL Era Starts With a 'Name'

Paul Steinbach

The day has arrived. The floodgates have opened. The long-anticipated NIL era — in which collegiate student-athletes can finally make money by taking their name, image and likeness to market — is upon us.

But the marketing began long ago — not for the student-athletes, mind you, but for the schools launching programs to aid student-athletes in their personal profitability pursuits. With nearly half of all states passing their own NIL legislation well ahead of any NCAA action, many athletic departments got the ball rolling by branding their NIL programs with catchy monikers, often with the help of cleverly named firms such as Opendorse and INFLCR.

Washington State put "Pursuit" right in its program title — the poetically assonance-laced "Cougar Pursuit."

Some simply chose a word or phrase suggesting heightened aspirations. Take, for example, Gonzaga's "Next Level." Others tied that idea more directly to their campuses (Houston's "LIFTOFF") or their mascots (Iowa's "FLIGHT" and Boston College's "SOAR"). Literally in rarified air already, the University of Wyoming used "Excellence at 7,220" to leverage Laramie's physical elevation.

Michigan State's "EverGreen" plays on the Spartans' dominant color, while Wisconsin ("YouDub"), Texas A&M ("AMPLIFY") and the University of Memphis ("MaximUM") all make casual institutional references. So does Ball State's "Ball YOU," but we're not touching that one.

Purdue's "EMPOWER" evokes the Boilermaker tradition, and Pitt's "Forged Here" hammers home an homage to local industry.

Ohio State — which once tried to trademark the world "the," as in its preferred "The Ohio State University" branding efforts — has since trademarked its NIL program name: "THE Platform" (all-cap emphasis OSU's). But given the Buckeyes' perennial star power and the potential windfall that could enrich certain roster members, may we suggest "EyeBucks"?

Missouri's program name, meanwhile, is "TradeMark," though we're not sure if it's trademarked.

Boise State — unrivaled in its pursuit of assistance from new fewer than four firms (INFLCR, TeamAltimus, Anomaly Sports and NOCAP) — has chosen "What's Next." Our only suggestion here would be the addition of a question mark, because what truly happens next in this new era of NIL is anybody's guess.

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