Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr. (4) runs to the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of the LA Bowl NCAA college football game against Oregon State in Inglewood, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021. (Ashley Landis, Associated Press)
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LOGAN — For Utah State quarterback Logan Bonner, it was a dinner several years in the making.
Since his day at Arkansas State, the quarterback had always wanted to reward his offensive line by taking them out to a nice restaurant — a token of gratitude for their efforts protecting the line of scrimmage. But an all-expenses-paid dinner for several large human beings was a tall task on a student-athlete budget, so Bonner never had the chance.
In November, that all changed. Bonner signed a name, image, and likeness, or NIL deal, with Deseret First Credit Union. And one of his first expenditures after inking the deal? Take his offensive line out to Kabuki Steakhouse and Sushi Bar on Main Street in Logan.
“I mean, that’s like a big bill,” Bonner said. “I don’t know if you’ve seen those guys when they’re all together.
“After I signed with Deseret, I just wanted to say thank you, and they were willing to do it and I took them out to eat. It was a really good time. One of them ordered a medium-well steak. I was kind of upset about it. I’d rather him order a good chicken if he was going to eat a hockey puck.”
Questionable culinary preferences aside, it was a unifying night out for a group of college football players who were just weeks away from winning the Mountain West championship. It was a night that likely would not have happen any season prior.
In July 2021, the NCAA officially deregulated rules that prohibited NIL opportunities for its student-athletes; this permitted the players of a billion-dollar industry a chance to earn money based on their personal brands.
Nearly a year after the groundbreaking announcement, NIL is the talking point of college athletics. Guidelines the NCAA originally laid out, such as “play-for-play” and “fair-market value” have been largely unenforced, turning NIL into a massive recruiting tool and stirring up controversy in programs and conferences nationally.
At Utah State, the impact of NIL isn’t as sizable — at least from a dollar value.
Although student-athletes have to disclose their NIL deals with the university, they’re not public records (Utah State cites them as “educational records,” which are protected from public access due to a federal law known as FERPA). This makes the exact monetary amount of individual deals unclear.
What is clear is that six- and seven-figure deals for Aggies student-athletes …….