YSU student-athletes earn income through NIL partnerships

By Henry Shorr

Ohio’s name, image and likeness law has been in place for over a year and Youngstown State University is creating spaces for student-athletes to find endorsement opportunities.

In the year since Ohio’s NIL law has been in effect, many YSU student-athletes have obtained sponsorship deals. The restaurant Sam’s Wedge Inn in Austintown partnered with Youngstown State women’s basketball players seniors Paige Shy and Mady Aulbach, and J. Arnold Smith Wealth and Management has partnered with Youngstown State football’s senior Jaleel McLaughlin.

Tyler Burke, assistant director of Compliance for YSU athletics, said his department helps student-athletes navigate this new side of college sports. The department provides resources like Opendorse, an online portal the university has partnered with, where athletes can find potential partnerships and sponsorships. 

“Opendorse is the leader when it comes to the NIL. They’re partnering with… major, major schools,” Burke said. “There’s not going to be a $50,000 deal on there. When you’re a college student, $500 to make a couple social media posts. That’s a pretty good deal in my book.”

Opendorse also has educational modules for student-athletes where they can learn different aspects of the business side of sports — like how to build their brand and the tax implications of taking NIL deals.

Julia Csernyik, a junior on the Youngstown State women’s soccer team, said Opendorse has opened doors for her in the realm of athletic endorsement. Because of it, Csernyik has found success in social media partnerships. She said she’s especially proud of the work she’s been able to do for causes she supports, such as Player’s Health.

“I did an Instagram reel for [Player’s Health] for Title IX and the 50th anniversary in women’s sports,” Csernyik said. “I never thought that I would get an opportunity like that to work with groups that are working with much more popular athletes.” 

Csernyik said she was excited to see her video posted next to professional soccer player Sarah Fuller’s video on the Player’s Health Instagram page. Fuller was the first woman to kick and score in a Power 5 college football game and an advocate for athletes’ mental health.

There are still hurdles for some students. Numerous YSU student-athletes come from other countries and their study visas make it difficult to take NIL deals.

“When they come over, their visa is like a study visa. So, the only work they’re allowed to do is on-campus work for 20 hours or less,” Burke said. “NIL deals are technically considered work, they would jeopardize their visa status.” 

Burke said international student-athletes who want to take NIL deals can partner with companies — including American companies — when they’re back home and take full advantage of NIL rules.

Csernyik said she believes the NIL rules will only improve the world of college sports — and not just for athletes at large-market schools. She’s created relationships and partnerships with brands and athletes all over the country. 

“With my course load and with 20-hour practice weeks, you can’t really hold onto a job,” Csernyik said. “It’s nice to have something that I can fall back on in a way that I have been given the opportunity and the platform to do so.”

If businesses want to partner with YSU athletes, they can visit the YSU marketplace and pick which athletes they would like to work with.