WSU to hire a Director of Student Athlete Innovation

Position focused on helping student athletes navigate NIL



WSU’s rowing team will now head to Ohio for the Big-10 Invitational from April 17-18.

DAYLON HICKS, Evergreen reporter

WSU Athletics is furthering its involvement with name, image and likeness by hiring a director of student-athlete innovation, a role they hope will provide new opportunities for student-athletes.

This position will focus on the Cougar Pursuit Program, a five-week course that student-athletes must take to learn about personal branding, marketing in social media and life after sports.

Allowing student-athletes to use their NIL to gain financial compensation and to build their brands is significant in giving athletes and institutions further exposure and professional opportunities. However, adapting to the new legislation of NIL can be difficult for student-athletes as they may lack experience in business. NIL paves the way for every athlete to run or market themselves like a business with similar stakes.

“Personally, I have gotten way more attention in NIL than I would’ve imagined being in such a low visible sport like rowing,” WSU rower Grace Trujillo said.

As a current WSU rower, she emphasized the importance of getting less popular sports more recognition through NIL.

Colleges such as USC, UCLA and University of Texas are making transitions to new conferences because of fan service and money, moves primarily motivated by the biggest moneymaker for many colleges- football. However, the shifts in college athletics relating to NIL and conference realignment affect all sports programs.

“Because I have gotten these opportunities from people I’ve known, it inspired me to learn more about it so I can help other athletes that are in low visibility sports find opportunities as well,” Trujillo said.

The new position is beneficial for Trujillo as she aims to learn more about NIL and be another source for student-athletes to reach out to about NIL.

Opportunities can be taken away by companies from student-athletes due to them not knowing the rules centered around NIL and NCAA rules.

“It’ll be really important because the amount of people that I’ve asked questions about NIL and they didn’t know to having one person dedicated to this is gonna be really important to protect us and educate us,” Trujillo said.

In 2021, All-American Max Borghi made a promotional tweet including a graphic that anticipated the coming of NIL. During this time, the state of Washington was unable to benefit from NIL, but he knew that NIL would be available in Washington and he used the opportunity to promote himself.

“I am extremely excited to maximize on my Name, Image and Likeness goals at Washington State! Please feel free to contact me in regards to any business opportunities! Go Cougs!!” Borghi wrote in a tweet.


In the graphic within the tweet, he included text detailing the impact and purpose of the new NIL rules.

“I believe the passing of name, image and likeness will help me reach my goals as it will allow for me to use my platform to build more on-the-field and off-the-field opportunities for my future,” the graphic read. “I am excited to break the barriers we as student-athletes had and seek my true potential.”

Other student-athletes such as Ron Stone Jr., football player, and Julianna Dalton, volleyball player, followed the same tweet format listing why NIL is important for them respectively.

The ability to commercialize their NIL gives WSU student-athletes the opportunity to grow and brand themselves through educational workshops, special events and in-class lectures where they can learn the tools necessary to understand more about NIL.

“With NIL being new, we don’t know where it can lead us down the line,” Shelby McKay, associate director of athletics, said. “We do know, however, that the impact student-athletes can experience with this opportunity can prepare themselves whether they choose to continue doing sports at the next level or not.”

On March 22, WSU announced the collaboration of a local NIL Marketplace supported by Icon Source, the leading digital marketplace connecting brands and athletes for endorsements and partnerships and this new hire will be helpful in looking for assistance in navigating through the digital marketplace site, according to a Daily Evergreen article.

In general, NIL is a way for student-athletes to boost their name and gain revenue for deals they are involved in even if the sport is not as recognized on a global scale. The transition that college sports are making involving NIL deals is the start toward the future.

“With NIL, we are seeing the future of collegiate sports as we know it and it’ll only continue to elevate from there,” McKay said.