LOS ANGELES – Chip Kelly believes UCLA is approaching the NCAA’s uncharted territory when it comes to name, image and likeness (NIL) the right way.
As for the NCAA itself? That’s a different story.
Kelly said before practice Saturday that allowing college athletes to profit off themselves and enter into endorsement deals has led to some convoluting of what should be allowed.
Those may include allegations of pay-for-play, boosters exploiting NIL and the role of NIL in transfer portal decisions.
“I think if the enforcement arm of the NCAA catches up to the rules of the NCAA, I think we’ll be in a great situation,” Kelly said.
Kelly said schools shouldn’t have to factor in NIL when it comes to retaining players because coaches cannot contact athletes from other programs who haven’t yet entered the transfer portal.
“Coaches can’t be involved in brokering deals for student athletes,” Kelly said. “This is not pay-for-play. This is not recruiting inducements.”
UCLA introduced the Westwood Exchange – a registry through which companies can connect with athletes for NIL purposes – earlier this year. It’s signed off on by the school’s compliance office and over 140 businesses have signed up so far, according to Kelly.
Many UCLA football players, including Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Chase Griffin and Kam Brown have inked big NIL deals.
“It’s been a spectacular experience,” said Brown, who said he has around 10 deals. “I encourage everyone to really dive into it. Do your research. Because there’s many benefits to it. So just do your research, make sure you’re hopping into the right deals, get somebody to look at everything. It can be real special.”
Griffin, despite being a reserve quarterback, has been one of the breakout stars of the NIL era. He won this year’s NIL Summit’s NIL Male Athlete of the Year after signing with Degree, Shell, Discord and Boost Mobile.
Kelly said that for a player to have a successful NIL campaign, it takes a certain amount of work.
“This is not a quid pro quo,” Kelly said. “People just can’t pay you X amount of dollars to do nothing. Maybe at some other places that happens, but at this place it doesn’t.”
Kelly’s crosstown counterpart, USC coach Lincoln Riley, agreed that there are certain NIL rules not being enforced. Riley was accused of tampering to land Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh in the transfer portal, which Riley denies.
Riley did say during Pac-12 Media Day last week that being in Los Angeles behooves his program in taking advantage of NIL — which UCLA might also relate to.
“I certainly recognized the opportunities that existed in L.A. and specifically with USC and felt like there was no school more positioned to capitalize off NIL than us.,” Riley said. “Now that I’m boots on the ground, I believe that even more. It’s probably even more substantial than what I thought it could be.”
NIL money allowed Thompson-Robinson to rent out a yacht and take the entire offense unit on a boat ride ahead of fall camp — on his tab. They chased around a pack of dolphins for around 10 to 15 minutes, which was a new experience for wide receiver Jake Bobo.
“I couldn’t tell you how it was five to 10 years ago, but I imagine it was a little different, just in that aspect,” Bobo said. “I don’t know if guys were going out on boats two days before camp, just having a good time as a group on money that was basically athletic-driven.”
Linebacker Damian Sellers, who started five of seven games in 2020 but was not listed on the fall camp roster, is “unavailable,” Kelly said.
Sellers did not participate in spring practice, and the reason for his absence has not been made public.
Tight end Mike Martinez, who was not at practice, is also “unavailable,” per Kelly.
Linebacker Ale Kaho, who started two games last season after transferring from Alabama, was seen in a scooter Saturday, still nursing an apparent right foot injury that he had in the spring.