From gameday to payday: Georgia high schoolers eligible for NIL

In June 2021, the NCAA made quite possibly the biggest decision in college athletics history: allowing college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL). On Oct. 2, 2023, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) officially allowed high school athletes in the state  to sign NIL deals, becoming the 30th in America to do so.

A high school football hotbed, Georgia currently boasts 15 teams ranked in the MaxPreps national top 100 and many top recruits, including 41 with at least a four-star rating according to 247Sports

NIL deals allow players to partner with brands and businesses and receive financial benefits. One such player is Buford High School quarterback and Nebraska signee Dylan Raiola, who has an estimated NIL value of $945K.

“I think it’s great,” Raiola said. “I think everyone should be able to profit off what they’re good at.”

Raiola signed his first NIL deal in December 2023 with trading card company Panini, a leading distributor of sports cards. Panini has also signed deals with University of Texas quarterbacks Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning, among many more amateur athletes.

With the University of Georgia nearby, the Athens area is no stranger to recent collegiate NIL deals. Players such as Malaki Starks and Brock Bowers have appeared on commercials and billboards for restaurants and law firms. The money from the deals comes from NIL collectives made up of donors. 

UGA’s NIL group is named the “Classic City Collective” and gains money through donations and membership payments to what’s called the “21 Club.” The prices can range from $21 a month to $10,000 a year. Each level comes with different perks that range from merchandise to events.

On the field is where players prove their worth. The better they play, the more likely they are to gain NIL deals, so playing well becomes crucial. 

Cedar Shoals senior wide receiver Devin Hester has a positive outlook on NIL, and is optimistic about how it can help student athletes.

“I think it’s a good way for teenagers to start earning money,” Hester said. “Once you get into college, you have to deal with a lot of things, so earning money early on is definitely a good thing.”

Cedar Shoals head football coach Leroy Ryals is not concerned about NIL changing the high school football landscape.

“It’s pretty much the same as a player working at Publix during the offseason,” Ryals said. “If Devin Hester got a job at Publix, it’s between him and his parents, not me. It’s the same thing as getting paid because he’s a good football player. I can’t stop him.”

Cedar Shoals Athletic Director and boys head basketball coach L’Dreco Thomas, however, is more concerned about NIL.

“You can be a student and be paid for sponsorships if you’re a YouTuber or a streamer; the school can’t stop you from doing that,” Thomas said, “But it’s a completely different story for athletics. There needs to be regulations and governance.” 

A concern with NIL in college is the possibility of players leaving their original school in the transfer portal, which is the way college athletes transfer to new schools. Athletes may transfer because they believe they can get more opportunities to sign lucrative NIL deals. This apprehension now carries in high school sports.

“We could possibly see players leaving the community they grew up in because they think they’ll get more money if they go to another school,” Thomas said. “I think that could ruin high school sports if it gets out of hand. That’s why the GHSA needs to keep a close eye on what’s going on and make sure that nobody is breaking rules.”

With NIL still being in its infancy, there are still many details that need to be settled. The deals work when they are simply used for a brand to advertise a product, but it can easily be used as a recruiting tactic. If NIL is not correctly monitored, it can flip the high school sports arena.

Gabriel Holcomb

Senior Gabriel Holcomb is a second year staff writer for Cedar BluePrints. Holcomb hopes to work for a baseball team in the future and wants to grow his skills in the sportswriting field. He enjoys roller coasters and the bond that the staff has.

Avatar photo