Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard on new NIL period: Time dedication, brokering offers, locker room response

Syracuse, N.Y. – For Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard, the offers surfaced soon after the stroke of midnight on July 1.

On that day, the changing clock signaled the start of a momentous new era in college sports. College athletes could begin to earn money off their names, images and likenesses (NIL). After several tumultuous months, a couple tempestuous weeks and a few chaotic days, the NCAA – under pressure from states that passed laws to enact NIL on July 1 – permitted its athletes to do what was previously forbidden in college sports.

Those athletes could now monetize their sports fame without jeopardizing their college playing eligibility.

Girard, the Syracuse point guard, checked his direct messages shortly after midnight and saw potential fruits from a new source of labor. By noon, about 10 entities had reached out to him, though many of those, he said, were opportunistic entrepreneurs offering their marketing services to help him navigate his brave new world.

Boeheim experienced a similarly frenzied opening day.

“It was pretty crazy at first,” he said. “The first day a lot of people were reaching out, from Coach (Jason) Smith at Brewster to other companies like Hunter’s. We just kind of navigated through it all, just looking at what was best for me and not trying to do too much right away.”

Girard, who has 57,900 followers on Instagram, and Boeheim, with his 34,800 followers, were obvious targets of brands and businesses seeking young, athletic spokesmen or spokeswomen to pitch their products.

By that first day, both had announced their availability on Cameo, where they could perform personalized paid videos for fans. Both also struck deals with The Players Trunk and Hunter Pomerantz, the former SU basketball team manager whose company provides a platform for athletes to sell branded gear.

Because Pomerantz has a licensing deal with SU, Boeheim and Girard could wear their SU uniforms on the shirts that bear their images. When Boeheim struck an endorsement deal with iSlide, he could wear only generic workout gear because of the company’s lack of licensing with SU.

Back in 2016, Girard’s mom applied for a trademark for “JG3,” and recently renewed it, he said. Boeheim said his trademark application for “Buddy Buckets” is currently being processed. He expects it to clear in about a month.

In the meantime, they continue to field offers from various brands. Most reach the players through direct messages. Boeheim and Girard sift through them and handle the easier ones themselves, but funnel more complex potential arrangements to their parents and marketing person. Both have marketing relationships with Mike Bristol, the president and founder of 7 Enterprises Marketing Firm. Bristol’s clients include Jim Boeheim and Dino Babers.

“Some stuff goes direct to me through direct message on Instagram, Twitter or people I know who have companies,” Girard said. “And then I have them email me and cc my dad on it and we talk about it. There’s also other stuff that goes to (Bristol). And he gets me stuff as well and obviously takes a cut of that. I don’t really have a contract with anyone just because there’s other stuff I do on my own. But he does help me out with stuff.”

“Early on, companies would reach out to me and I’d talk to my parents about it, about what we should do, price or whatever and we were just like, ‘We have no clue,’” Boeheim said. “It’s new to us. It’s crazy and so we definitely need some help. So having people like that helps a lot, trying to navigate the best prices for myself and also for the company.”

Boeheim initially charged $60 for a Cameo video, but when he woke up his second day on the site and saw 9 or 10 requests in his queue, he reconsidered and boosted the price to $100. He said he will continually evaluate his free time and the demand for his Cameo services and adjust the price accordingly. He expects, he said, to lower his asking fee to $50 at some points to grant more access.

Both SU players said they are cognizant about not allowing the NIL time commitment to consume them.

“That’s why I got those guys to help me,” Girard said. “I’m trying to play basketball. And like Coach has said and a lot of people have said, ‘Your main focus has to be getting better at basketball, looking forward to the season and helping the team win.’ Those guys are the ones that can relieve the pressure and help me just focus on basketball.”

“I’m just trying to do stuff that’s best for me and the things I want to get involved in,” Boeheim said. “But I’m also thankful to people who are reaching out and wanting to do stuff. I’m letting my parents handle a lot, Mike handle a lot. Making sure basketball is the No. 1 thing on my mind.”

Boeheim is playing college basketball in his hometown; Girard’s home base is about three hours and still solidly Syracuse country away. Girard, a Glens Falls hero, said he has yet to engage with local businesses about potential endorsement opportunities, but figures those deals might be arranged by the end of the summer.

He wants to be careful, he said, “about what we can and cannot do. We’re still trying to figure stuff out with local businesses. I haven’t really finalized any deals with them yet, but I think some will come.”

Boeheim said he’s leaning into Central New York businesses that offer opportunities.

“Galaxy radio is one that’s reached out and wants to do something with me and Jimmy. And Beak & Skiff DM’d me the other day. I’d love to do something with them, in a place I grew up,” he said. “Besides that, the company Enduraphin is a protein powder that we use here. Two guys from Cicero (Mike Dalberth, Danny Drake) run it, so that’s a company I want to get involved with. A couple others, too, but I’m just taking it slowly right now. Not trying to do too much or rush too much right away.”

About a week before NIL began, SU’s compliance director Mark Wheeler spoke with the basketball team to explain “basic guidelines and stuff like that,” Girard said. Each deal struck by an SU athlete must pass through the school’s compliance department. SU athletic director John Wildhack said the school’s relationship with INFLCR, the athlete brand and marketing company SU has partnered with, has helped ease the demand on his compliance staff.

The players said the turnaround between the time they submit a potential deal to the time it gets approved is generally swift. Boeheim expected to begin work Wednesday on a cereal commercial for Three Wishes, a company launched by an SU graduate and his wife. That project, he said, required more time and attention to detail.

Girard and Boeheim said they rarely speak about NIL with their teammates unless they’re talking up a potential basketball camp the whole team can profit from. They are aware, they said, that visa restrictions currently deny international athletes NIL opportunities. And they are uncomfortable, in general, discussing deals in that setting.

“Honestly, we don’t really talk too much about it. That’s what compliance said we should do in the meeting,” Girard said. “Unfortunately, foreign students aren’t allowed to do it. That’s why we try not to talk about it. You don’t want to tick a guy off or make them feel bad.”

“We have four or five international guys and it’s tough for them that they can’t and we can do stuff,” Boeheim said. “So obviously we don’t want to make it seem like we’re rubbing it in their face. We’re just focused on basketball right now. It’s a great group of guys, so I think everybody’s happy for each other.”

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