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At the intersection of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy and cryptocurrency sits non-fungible tokens, or NFTs for short.

NIL allowed college athletes to monetize their brand image, and although the first year has been a messy and haphazard affair for the NCAA, NFTs could make it even more complicated.

Likened to trading cards by many, NFTs are digital photos or videos that are exclusively owned by the buyer. To some, this is a head-turning proposition. After all, how can one own something if everyone has access to it on the internet?

If cryptocurrency is the Wild West then NFTs represent the Gold Rush, with everyone looking for a way to cash in on something that doesn’t really exist. Although NFTs can be an image of anything, they’ve caught on particularly well within college and professional sports.

Take former Gonzaga University men’s basketball standout Jalen Suggs. An NFT of Suggs’ miraculous game-winner against UCLA in the 2021 Final Four could be minted as an NFT and priced according to its rarity and the player’s performance. Although an NFT of that particular moment doesn’t exist, technology company RECUR developed a first-of-its-kind college sports NFT destination called NFTU that allows users to buy, collect and re-sell NFTs for college sports.

NFTU’s “Tip Off” series marked the inaugural release of college basketball collectibles that included NFTs from 50 universities and 100+ former and current college players including Blake Griffin, Ja Morant, Drew Timme and Adam Morrison.

NFTs fall into four categories: common, premium, rare and ultra-rare. Currently, NFTU has NFTs for eight different GU players including a rare Suggs NFT and an ultra-rare Adam Morrison NFT, listed for $50 and $210, respectively. Suggs’ NFT represents his solid performance in the 2021 West Coast Conference championship game where he scored 23 points, five assists and five rebounds to lead GU over BYU.

Former GU All-American Dan Dickau partnered with NFTU after Priority Sports – his sport’s agency – approached him about the opportunity last winter. Although Dickau doesn’t claim to be an expert in the field, the opportunity to participate in such a new and uncertain industry was too enticing to pass up.

“When you look at technology and this type of platform, there is a lot of opportunity,” Dickau said. “But you have to be in on the ground floor and understand it really well, which takes some time.”

GU has partnered with Campus Legends – which bills itself as the premiere NFT platform in all of college sports – for an exclusive drop of NFTs for men’s and women’s basketball players.

The collection first dropped on March 24 and included players like Rasir Bolton, Yvonne Ejim and Melody Kempton. Not only can fans own the NFTs, but purchasers also unlock added features like their own gallery to showcase their collection in addition to a free NFT drop of all GU men’s basketball student-athletes of the week of April 4 for those who have collected the entire team.

Campus Legends aims to provide student-athletes and former alumni a platform for monetizing their NIL by funneling royalty payments to athletes every time an NFT is purchased. The hope is that an athletes’ NFT will appreciate in value over the course of their career as they achieve greater success.

On the Campus Legends website, each men’s and women’s NFT is priced at $35 and $15, respectively. Hunter Sallis and Drew Timme’s NFTs are listed for $110 with only 35 NFTs available for purchase for each player.  

One notable figure missing from Campus Legends and NFTU is Chet Holmgren, a projected top-three pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Holmgren signed an exclusive deal with Candy Digital last January with other college stars like Memphis’s Jalen Duren and Alabama’s JD Davison.

Holmgren is one of five men’s college basketball players in the inaugural drop. Candy Digital released a 22-player college football NFT drop last spring that saw Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei’s NFT sell at auction for $19,500.

Just like NFTU, Candy Digital separates NFTs into four categories including core, rare, epic and legendary. Holmgren’s NFTs are priced at $20.22, $150 and $350, respectively, with the legendary NFT selling at auction for an undisclosed amount. According to KXLY, the last high bid was $3,333.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the inaugural Candy Sweet Futures hoops lineup alongside some of the top players in the country,” Holmgren said to Boardroom. “Candy is reimagining the way fans can celebrate the sport and players they love, and I look forward to sharing the new NFTs soon.”

The college sports landscape has changed drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic halted play in 2020 and NIL and NFTs were introduced within the last year. For the time being, NFTs represent yet another opportunity for college athletes to cash in on their NIL in the short term. Although no one could tell you with certainty how NFTs will appreciate or depreciate in the future, college athletes should take every chance to reap the rewards that the NCAA denied them for so long.

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