Applies to: Students, Employees, Volunteers, and Athletic Boosters
Issued: July 13, 2021
Last Revised: December 6, 2021
Last Reviewed: December 6, 2021
2. Policy Purpose
The vision of USC is to have the most student-athlete centered athletics program in the nation. In alignment with that vision, we support the ability of our student-athletes to earn compensation from third parties for the use of their name, image, and likeness (“NIL”), consistent with this Policy and California’s Fair Pay to Play Act. It is USC’s desire to provide student-athletes with the same rights immediately as of the effective date of this Policy and for the Policy’s provisions to be interpreted and applied consistently with the statutory language and intent of the Fair Pay to Play Act.
Purpose and Interpretation
The purpose of this policy is to empower student-athletes to earn NIL compensation in a manner that is consistent with NCAA rules, California state law, and the culture and mission of USC. It is each student-athlete’s responsibility to understand and comply with this policy, NCAA rules, and applicable law. Student-athletes are encouraged to review this policy closely, consult with trusted representatives, and share it with potential professional service providers and sponsors. Questions about this policy may be raised to the Athletics Department. Importantly, this policy is expected to evolve over time as laws, rules, and guidance change, and as the university learns more about how to best foster this new opportunity for its student-athletes.
Prospective student-athletes should consult their state laws and high school athletics associations regarding questions pertaining to NIL compensation and high school eligibility.
It is USC’s intent that this policy be interpreted consistently with the language and intent of California law and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (Title IX). To the extent that NCAA rules or other rules conflict with California law and/or Title IX, USC, USC employees, and student-athletes must follow California law and Title IX rather than conflicting NCAA rules or other rules.
3. Scope and Application
All university students, employees, volunteers, and athletic boosters must adhere to this policy, which also acts as a guide for student-athlete representatives and other third parties with interests in NIL activity.
4. Policy Details and Definitions
A. NIL Compensation Permitted. Student-athletes may earn compensation from third parties as a result of the use of their NIL. Examples of permissible NIL activity include appearance in television, print, or social media advertisements for commercial products or services; sale of autographs; conducting camps; and personal appearances by a student-athlete.
B. Prohibited Compensation Arrangements. For the avoidance of doubt, NIL compensation may not include any of the following:
- Compensation in exchange for a student-athlete’s athletic participation or performance at USC (i.e., “pay-for-play”);
- Compensation in exchange for a student-athlete’s decision to attend USC (i.e., improper recruiting inducements); and
- Compensation for work not performed (i.e., sham agreements with third parties in which a student-athlete does not provide a legitimate NIL-related service).
C. Conflicts with USC Team Contracts. State law prohibits student-athletes from entering into NIL contracts that conflict with USC’s team contracts. For example, during official team activities student-athletes may be prohibited from promoting products or services that compete with Nike, Coca-Cola, Powerade, Muscle Milk, and United Airlines.
D. Disclosure of Student-Athlete NIL Contracts. Student-athletes must disclose all NIL contracts to USC’s Associate Vice President for Athletic Compliance, by submitting a disclosure form using the INFLCR software application. All NIL contracts must be disclosed, regardless of the amount of compensation and regardless of whether the agreement is oral or in writing. This disclosure to USC is required by law and necessary for USC to determine whether a conflict exists between a student-athlete’s proposed NIL contract and a USC team contract. Student-athletes are strongly encouraged to refrain from finalizing NIL contracts until after USC has completed its review for conflicts. In the event USC determines that a conflict exists, it will disclose that conflict to the student-athlete and/or their representative.
E. Permitted Times for NIL Activities. USC expects that student-athletes will not engage in NIL activities that interfere with official team activities or academic activities (e.g., during class, study hall, exams, and assessments). Students are responsible for any consequences related to missing team or academic activities due to NIL activities or any other non-excused purpose consistent with USC policy.
F. Use of USC Marks.
USC’s rights to its marks and other intellectual property are controlled and protected by federal and state law. Anyone who uses USC’s marks is allowed to do so only if the user of the marks has obtained a written license from the USC Office of Trademarks & Licensing Services (“TLS”). For student-athletes who want to use USC’s marks in connection with their NIL rights, there are additional considerations and requirements due to NCAA regulations and state law. This section sets forth those additional considerations and requirements.
Like any student or person who wants to use USC’s marks, a student-athlete must obtain prior written approval from the university to use USC uniforms, team apparel, gear, logos, trademarks, word marks, photos, videos, and other intellectual property owned by USC (collectively, “Marks”) in connection with NIL activities. USC reserves the right to pursue legal recourse against any individual or entity that utilizes USC Marks without express written permission to do so.
USC’s approval of the use of its Marks is subject to USC’s sole discretion consistent with all legal and regulatory requirements. USC will only approve the use of Marks for entities that are equal opportunity employers and will not approve the use of USC Marks in connection with NIL activities that conflict with team and sponsor contracts, that involve entities competing with our sponsors, that involve gambling, drugs, pornography, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, or any other activities or products that reflect poorly on the university and/or are inconsistent with the university’s Code of Ethics (https://policy.usc.edu/code-of-ethics/) and its values, including the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion (https://diversity.usc.edu/), all of which are determined at the sole discretion of the university (collectively referred to as “Unapproved Uses”).
- USC Licensee: an entity that has entered into a contractual agreement with TLS to produce and sell USC licensed consumer products (i.e., apparel, collectibles, trading cards, etc.)
- USC Corporate Sponsor: a company or other entity that enters into a contractual agreement with USC Athletics to utilize USC intellectual property for the purpose of marketing, advertising, or other promotional initiatives
- Co-branding: merchandising, sponsorship, or other types of promotional activities that involve USC’s intellectual property and student-athlete NIL
Approval process for NIL merchandising opportunities involving USC Marks:
- Student-athlete NIL activities involving products or merchandise must be coordinated through a USC Licensee.
- Existing USC Licensees: Student-athletes may enter into NIL agreements with existing university Licensees to develop and market co-branded licensed products (i.e., apparel, headwear, collectibles, etc.) using USC trademarks, provided that the student-athletes inform USC about the NIL agreement through the INFLCR app, as detailed in Section D of this policy. It is the responsibility of the USC Licensee to then seek and receive approval for the actual use of Marks from the TLS, which will consider requests pursuant to its normal procedures as detailed on its website (https://trademarks.usc.edu/). TLS will not approve any Unapproved Uses.
- Potential new USC Licensees: USC will review and consider pursuant to TLS’s normal procedures (as detailed on its website https://trademarks.usc.edu) any new potential USC Licensees that are interested in entering into agreements with student- athletes and the university to create co-branded licensed products. USC will not grant any new licenses that would involve Unapproved Uses.
For requests or questions on NIL merchandising opportunities, please contact TLS: https://trademarks.usc.edu/.
Approval process For NIL Corporate Sponsor opportunities involving USC Marks:
- Existing USC Athletics Corporate Sponsors: Student-athletes may enter into NIL agreements with existing USC Athletics Corporate Sponsors to develop co-branded marketing, advertising, or other promotional opportunities using USC intellectual property, provided that the student-athletes inform USC about the NIL agreement through the INFLCR app, as detailed in Section D of this policy. It is the responsibility of the USC Corporate Sponsor to then seek and receive approval for the actual use of Marks from USC Athletics, which will consider requests pursuant to its normal procedures. USC Athletics will not approve any Unapproved Uses.
- Potential new USC Athletics Corporate Sponsors: USC Athletics will review and consider pursuant to its normal procedures any new Corporate Sponsors that are interested in entering into agreements with student-athletes and the university to develop co-branded marketing, advertising, or other promotional opportunities using USC intellectual property. USC will not agree to agreements with any new Corporate Sponsors that would involve Unapproved Uses.
Approval Process for other requests to use USC Marks (other than merchandising and Corporate Sponsor opportunities)
- Other requests to use USC Marks must be provided to USC through the INFLCR app. The use of USC Marks is not permitted merely upon submission of the request to USC, but rather only if and when USC informs the student-athlete in writing that the Marks have been approved for use. The scope of use of the Marks shall be limited to the use approved by USC in writing and for no other use.
- USC will not approve the use of Marks for Unapproved Uses.
- A student-athlete’s use of the Marks must not give the impression that the student-athlete NIL activity is sponsored or endorsed by USC. If USC determines in its sole discretion that specific student-athlete NIL activities or use of USC Marks create a risk of confusion as to USC’s affiliation with the activities, USC may require that the student-athlete cease the offending use and/or clarify through written disclaimers or otherwise that USC is not affiliated with and does not endorse the activities.
Provided that the student-athlete requests through INFLCR the authorization to use Marks, if USC determines in its sole discretion that the proposed use would not be prohibited by the requirements and prohibitions enumerated in this Policy, USC will permit the following uses of its Marks in student-athlete NIL activities:
- Uses that are purely descriptive in nature (i.e., student-athletes describes themselves as a “USC student-athlete” or participating in a specific sport, “USC basketball player”)
- uses in which USC’s trademarks or other intellectual property are a nominal element of a non-commercial aspect of student-athlete NIL activity. For example, the wearing of USC apparel at live events will typically be a permitted incidental use; however, the wearing of apparel in promotions pictures, videos, or advertisements is typically commercial activity beyond incidental use. As these distinctions highlight, it is imperative that student-athletes receive advance authorization from USC for any use of Marks pursuant to this Policy, obtain a written license for any commercial use, and limit their use of the Marks to what is authorized by USC in writing.
If a request to use Marks for student-athlete NIL activities is denied, the requesting party may request reconsideration of that decision by contacting USC’s Director of NIL Services: firstname.lastname@example.org. The goal of that reconsideration process will be for USC and the student-athlete to work together to arrive at a resolution acceptable to the student-athlete and consistent with this Policy. This process may include, among other things, USC correcting erroneous decisions and/or student-athletes providing additional or modified information or proposals for USC to consider.
G. Use of USC Facilities. Student-athletes may not use USC facilities, staff, or other resources in connection with NIL activities without prior written approval from USC, and such use must comply with USC’s standard policies and practices (e.g., execution of a facility rental agreement).
H. Risk of Confusion. If USC determines, in its sole discretion, that certain NIL activities involving a student-athlete’s use of USC marks or facilities create a risk of confusion as to USC’s affiliation with such activities, USC may require the student-athlete to clarify through written disclaimers or otherwise that USC is not affiliated with and does not endorse the activities. USC may also require that the student-athlete cease unauthorized use of USC marks or facilities.
I. Professional Representation. Student-athletes may obtain professional representation from persons licensed by the State of California (e.g., agents, lawyers, and other professionals) to advise them regarding the use of their NIL. Professional representation must be reported to the Office of Athletic Compliance.
J. Boosters. Representatives of USC’s athletic interests are permitted to enter into NIL contracts with student-athletes, subject to the provisions of this Policy and applicable NCAA rules (e.g., prohibitions on “pay-for-play” arrangements and improper recruiting inducements).
K. Inappropriate Sponsorships. To protect and present an appropriate image, USC does not enter into sponsorship agreements involving certain products and services. USC strongly discourages student-athletes from entering into NIL contracts related to illegal substances, illegal conduct, or anything else, including but not limited to sports wagering and supplements that might impact their NCAA eligibility or long-term best interests. USC strongly encourages student-athletes to only work with entities that equitably and respectfully promote athletic accomplishment, resist objectification and sexualization of student-athletes, adhere to anti-racist practices, and engage in practices that are consistent with the university’s culture for a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment, including those that enforce prohibitions on discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and all other characteristics protected by law.
L. USC Employees.
- California law does not prohibit USC employees from participating in or facilitating the NIL activities of student- athletes. However, to protect the best interests of USC’s student-athletes and prevent conflicts of interest, or the appearance of conflicts of interest, and violations of NCAA rules or University policy, USC employees may not:
- Accept any compensation or benefits of any kind, for assisting in the identification, development, operation, or promotion of a NIL compensation opportunity involving a USC student-athlete, or for any related work performed with respect to student-athlete NIL activities;
- Act as an agent or professional service provider for a student-athlete or otherwise negotiate NIL contracts on behalf of a USC student-athlete;
- Solicit NIL opportunities for a USC student-athlete without receiving prior university approval to do so;
- Offer any guarantees of present or future NIL compensation as a recruiting inducement or otherwise; or
- Provide direct or indirect compensation to a USC student-athlete for the use of the student-athlete’s NIL or direct any individual to provide payment to a USC student-athlete for the use of the student-athlete’s NIL.
Unless otherwise directed, USC employees are encouraged to refer NIL requests to the Director of NIL Services (email@example.com).
M. Scholarships and Financial Aid. Compensation earned by student-athletes in exchange for NIL activities will not impact any scholarships provided by USC. However, NIL compensation may affect a student-athlete’s eligibility to receive need-based financial aid (e.g., Pell Grant, University Grant).
N. Compliance with Other Laws, USC Policies, and NCAA Rules. Notwithstanding the foregoing, student-athletes are expected to comply with all other applicable laws, including tax laws, university policies, and NCAA rules, including but not limited to Article 12 of the NCAA Bylaws (Amateurism and Athletics Eligibility). In addition, international student-athletes should consider consulting with government agencies for guidance related to visa and tax implications.
Refer to the Policy Details and Definitions section
8. Related Information
Athletics Department Webpage for Prospective Student-Athletes: https://usctrojans.com/sports/2017/6/15/genrel-usc-recruiting-html.aspx
Policies or website for rental of facilities, including e.g., Trojan Event Services: https://trojanevents.usc.edu/
Trojan Event Service site: https://trojanevents.usc.edu/outdoor-venues/outdoor-venue-request-form/
Please direct any questions regarding this policy to:
10. Policy URL