April 24, 2024

What’s in a Name? Smith School Launches Name, Image and Likeness Master’s Course

Since the 2021 Supreme Court ruling enabling college athletes to earn compensation for their name, image and likeness (NIL), the NIL industry’s estimated value has grown to nearly $1 billion annually. Now, the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business is preparing students to navigate it.

“BMGT 758D: Special Topics in Business and Management; Name, Image, and Likeness,” launched in January, marks the Smith School’s entry into the NIL space. The course, offered to graduate students, teaches students how to foster personal brands, understand the current available NIL resources and adapt to the ever-changing policies associated with NIL deals and collegiate sports.

This semester, 43 students from the Master’s in Management Studies program took part in the class. In addition to receiving a historical look at the relationship between NIL and collegiate sports, they participated in hands-on projects that saw them provide theoretical branding opportunities and marketing recommendations for college and high school athletes.

Smith School lecturer Steve Sclafani brought his industry insights to the classroom as a former college baseball player and as the founder of Baseball Factory, which has helped secure over $1 billion in scholarships and produced over 3,000 Major League Baseball amateur draftees.

According to Sclafani, the class offers an ideal forum for students to discuss the latest developments or potential trends in NIL policies, recognize the perspectives of stakeholders impacted by NIL deals, and learn how they can apply classroom lessons to the broader business industry.

“We're in the early days of NIL, and I think students are eager to understand the changes that are taking place in college athletics. The shift reminds me of when I got into college recruiting 30 years ago and how different it was,” says Sclafani. “For students to come in and build a foundation in this ecosystem can help them in any profession they want to get into.”

Catherine DeRosaCatherine DeRosa, MiMS ’24, says the chance to take a class centered around NIL was “a no-brainer” as a member of the Maryland Women’s Soccer team. In addition to the class’ alignment with her athletic background, DeRosa appreciated the chance to learn from Sclafani first-hand how he navigated his post-athletic career as an entrepreneur in sports.

“Professor Sclafani brought a lot of knowledge, experience, leadership and interesting perspectives to the course,” says DeRosa. “His expertise helped us understand the importance of the strategy behind how the deals we make now can influence the brands we partner with in the future.”

Benjamin CooperBenjamin Cooper, MiMS ’24, a Maryland Men’s Golf team member, viewed the class as an opportunity to understand the NIL landscape better and learn how to adapt and operate in an environment with rapidly changing policies. He appreciated how the class enhanced his understanding of branding deals and overall marketing acumen.

“While I never obtained any NIL deals, there are many classroom concepts that will stay with me after graduation,” says Cooper. “So much of what we learned in the class was about how to sell and present ourselves to get a deal. Those skills will undoubtedly help me in the business world.”

As NIL regulations evolve, Sclafani looks forward to adapting the course to help students continue navigating the space. Even during the semester, significant changes might occur from one class to the next, “keeping everybody on their toes,” but that’s part of the learning process, he says. Regardless, Sclafani’s goal remains the same—to help students position themselves for success in their desired pathways.

“It felt like all of the students, not just our athletes, were leaving with something they can use moving forward in their careers,” says Sclafani. “Anytime you can open up somebody's mind to what else is out there and how they can make an impact, it's really gratifying.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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