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RUSTON, La. (KTVE/KARD) – From college quarterbacks signing million-dollar deals, to gymnasts cashing in on social media, college athletics at the top has changed despite pushback. However, when Name Image and Likeness (NIL) was implemented in July of 2021, the smaller schools may not have been taken into consideration.

“At the Group of 5 level we’re still trying to compete in every aspect,” said Louisiana Tech Athletic Director Dr. Eric Wood.

 Wood is now in his third year as AD in Ruston and decided early on that NIL was going to be a part of the Louisiana Tech athletics brand.

“Our first approach to this thing was number one, we’re not going to put out heads in the sand and go well we can’t compete at that at this level,” Wood said in an interview with KTVE back in early November.

Over the last few years, the baseball team has been in the spotlight for the Bulldogs and with that comes opportunities in recruiting. There is, however, one major difference between schools like Louisiana Tech and others at the group of 5 level compared to the bigger schools when it comes to NIL,

“At Louisiana Tech we don’t have a collective, so the biggest difference is there’s not a large pool of money that at some places divide up evenly within the collective, like everybody on the team is getting “X” amount of money that we’ve seen throughout different schools that have done that,” said Louisiana Tech baseball recruiting coordinator Cooper Fouts.

Fouts goes on to explain that at the Group of 5 level, it’s more dependent on the athlete to find their NIL deals as opposed to the school providing every resource.

But that does not mean Louisiana Tech is not helping their students in terms of finding NIL deals and promoting their student-athletes. The University partnered with Opendorse to set up a marketplace where members of the community and business owners can find their athletes and set up deals easier.

“As soon as July 1st came around it was like “Hey my DMs are open”. And now thankfully we have a better platform for that and because of our Opendorse marketplace, it allows our brands and local partners to say hey what would it take to have somebody do a birthday shoutout, make an appearance at my store,” said Dr. Wood, who credits the platform for the school’s success in NIL.

According to Dr. Wood, that marketplace has allowed for 15 of the 16 sports on campus to have at least one player on a NIL deal with an average of about $2,000 per transaction.

Anna Larr Roberson is a junior forward for the women’s basketball team, and a Ruston native, and feels the local aspect of NIL rings true at Louisiana Tech.

“We get to see multiple faces during our games, like we see people in the crowd, and we get to know their kids as well so it’s more of a personal basis, so it’s not like it’s just random people, we get to see people day in and day out,” she said when asked about the area.

Name, Image, and Likeness have created a brand-new landscape for the NCAA and college athletics as a whole. And while it’s still too early to tell the long-term effects it will have on its athletes, this is not just the case of the rich becoming richer, but instead, everyone getting a piece of the extremely needed pie.

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