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Illinois embraces NIL movement as athletes get paid for signing autographs

Photo credit: Illinois Athletics

Ty Rodgers, Terrence Shannon and Matthew Mayer all recently signed autographs for elementary-aged kids, which left Kam Cox, the Illinois athletics NIL coordinator, seeing the benefits of the NIL movement.

It was a win-win for all parties involved, as the student-athletes got compensated for their time and young fans getting an experience they’ll never forget.

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“We all were that fan when we were younger,” Cox said, according to Illini Inquirer. “This is a memory they’ll have for the rest of their lives. Our student-athletes love being able to give that.”

The athletes were paid generously by the Illini Guardians — an NIL collective supporting Illini athletics and endorsed by Illini athletics.

The event gave the Illini Guardians a chance to explain to fans how beneficial the NIL movement can be for beneficial for college athletes.

“Half the people coming are say, ‘How much do we pay?’ The other half are saying, ‘There’s no way you’re paying college kids for autographs, right?'” Illini Guardians co-founder Adam Fleischer told Illini Inquirer. “I think where we are at conceptually is educating the fan base about what NIL is, what it can become and how it needs to be supported.”

Fleischer also understands that it’s important to be patient when it comes to stepping into the NIL world, as he’s seen other schools move too fast and then deal with the consequences of things not coming to fruition.

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All in all, Cox seems to want the university to continue to embrace NIL.

“We really want to lean into NIL,” Cox said. “We obviously understand it’s a very important part of the student-athlete experience, but we know it’s a really important part of our fan experience too. Fans support the Block I, but they also support the players who wear it. We want them to be able to interact with those folks, and it’s really good. We love seeing this happen, and we want to see this continuing to happen.”