Fresno State Bulldogs · Sports

Fresno State makes leap toward scoring endorsement deals for athletes

Student-athlete endorsement deals at Fresno State are coming sooner or later as the collegiate landscape moves toward allowing athletes to monetize their brands. 

The university took a step forward Thursday to get ahead of the curve in preparation of the day the NCAA starts to allow student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness rights. 

Eventually – as seen with the demands by Pac-12 football players this week to receive 50 percent of the total conference revenue – the athletes’ cries to be paid directly from their schools will drown out the opposition and make the NCAA decide whether or not the student-athletes are truly amateurs. 

But that’s still off in the distance. 

What’s closer, however, is endorsement money in the pockets of the star athletes on campus. That’s a reality that Fresno State is preparing for. 

The university announced a partnership with sports marketing company Opendorse to help out the 500-plus student-athletes on campus. 

Fresno State is joining Opendorse Ready, the organization’s name, image and likeness readiness program that aims to help student-athletes prepare and maximize the value of their brands. 

“We’re committed to holistically preparing every Fresno State student-athlete for long-term success beyond the field of play,” said Fresno State Athletics Director Terry Tumey in a statement. “With coming changes to name, image and likeness rights, I believe that it’s our role as leaders to provide the best possible resources for our student-athletes. 

“With this in mind, we are excited to join Opendorse Ready. This partnership will provide every Fresno State student-athlete with best-in-class education and technology tools to position themselves for success in social media engagement and personal brand development.”  

Currently, the NCAA does not allow student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. 

But, as Tumey referenced, those rules are changing. 

Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay To Play Act, opening the door for collegiate athletes in the state to sign endorsement deals starting in 2023, unless the NCAA moves faster. 

Following suit, other states, including Florida and New York, passed similar legislation, putting pressure on the NCAA to act. 

The NCAA is currently reviewing possible rule changes regarding name, image and likeness rights, and all signs now point toward a January 2021 decision to allow student-athletes to profit from those rights starting in the fall of next year. 

The vast majority of athletes at Fresno State will not profit financially from this eventuality. Only those with a legitimate claim to star power will. 

Assuming the rules change next year, who are those athletes who would be in a position to profit? 

Star running back Ronnie Rivers would have been the No. 1 fit here, but he’s on track to graduate before the rules change, so he’s out. 

If junior quarterback Jake Haener – a transfer from Washington – impresses head coach Kalen DeBoer enough to win the job, and assuming he plays well this season, he’ll be sitting pretty as a senior. 

Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Cropper wowed Bulldog fans as a freshman. Considering his roots in Sanger and Clovis, he should be able to find local endorsement deals with ease. 

Orlando Robinson was one of the lone bright spots for the men’s basketball team in his freshman season and should be in good shape when the rules change. 

The other obvious candidates are the Cavinder twins. Haley and Hanna Cavinder both had incredible freshmen seasons. Combine their talent with their social media presence – 100,000 followers each on Instagram and 660,000 followers on their combined TikTok page – and they could end up as the big winners at Fresno State. 

Photo: Fresno State Athletics

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.