Ole Miss soccer players sign NIL deal with Walk-On’s

Published 10:48 am Monday, August 9, 2021

By Jake Thompson
The Oxford Eagle

OXFORD — Last month, college student-athletes had the ability to sign Name, Image and Likeness deals and on Thursday, two Ole Miss soccer players did just that.

During their ground breaking ceremony, Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux announced it had signed NIL deals with Channing Foster and Molly Martin. Both Foster and Martin are returning this season for their extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While NIL deals have been announced across the country since the July 1 start date, most have been from the three major sports — football, basketball and baseball. With Foster and Martin signing a deal with Walk-On’s, it is the first sign that other sports are going to benefit from NILs as well.

“I think it’s a really cool opportunity with the way everything is changing for college athletes,” Foster said. “Obviously, you think about it affecting the big-name football players and basketball players. So, it’s cool to see that there are some opportunities for soccer players and other sports.”

Signing Foster and Martin is the first step in getting more Ole Miss athletes on board with the Walk-On’s Family of Athletes. The company is expecting to roll out its national campaign next week.

Finding ways to reach sports that are not football, basketball or baseball is the key strategy for Walk-On’s NIL program, said Bailey Richard, who serves as regional marketing support for Walk-On’s.

Aiming to localize their efforts with the college athletes they sign is another goal.

“I think we’re more excited about that, honestly. That we can take girls soccer. We can take women’s lacrosse, swim team and people who might not always get recognized even though they work just as hard as a football player, a baseball player,” Richard said. “We need to be different. We don’t always look for the hard-working athlete. We look for, ‘Are you a good person?’”

Both Foster and Martin will serve a local brand ambassadors for Walk-On’s. Oxford’s location, which will be located behind Burger King off University Avenue, is expecting to be open by late October or early November.

The Ole Miss soccer season begins on Aug. 19 when the Rebels host East Tennessee State University at 6 p.m.

Other notable NIL deals made with Ole Miss athletes that have been announced include quarterback Matt Corral, who signed a deal with memorabilia company Panini America, and linebacker MoMo Sanogo, who announced a clothing line and has helped with summer football camps.

Center Ben Brown, a former St. Aloysius star and Vicksburg native, has not yet signed any deals, although he and many other athletes put out blanket feelers on Twitter when Mississippi’s NIL law went into effect on July 1.

“It’s a great resource for college players. It’s such a short amount of time in your life that you can actually profit off your name, image and likeness, so it’s a great opportunity,” Brown said. “It’s so hard for college athletes to have a job, especially with football because it’s so time- and energy-demanding. These colleges and universities make a lot of money. I don’t see any problem with making money off of your own name or a picture of yourself.”

Brown said Ole Miss’ compliance office, which normally deals with volumes of NCAA regulations, has been in regular contact with players to work with them on NIL policies. Brown said athletes must report all transactions to an app seven days before signing anything to help vet deals and avoid conflicts of interest with existing athletic department contracts.

“There’s a little bit more fine print to it than people realize,” Brown said. “Our compliance office is helping us out to be clear what to do and what not to do.”

Vicksburg Post sports editor Ernest Bowker contributed to this report.