Over the past 20 months, name, image and likeness has put dollars into the hands of athletes. But the other way to earn compensation is through Alston awards, which are education-related financial awards from universities that can total roughly $24,000 in a four-year college career.
Alston awards come from a Shawne Alston, a former West Virginia running back, who is the namesake plaintiff in NCAA v. Alston. The running back filed the lawsuit in 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the NCAA’s rules on education-related benefits for athletes. Ultimately, the Supreme Court provided a unanimous 9-0 opinion in June 2021 that affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling against the NCAA.
The NCAA calculated that $5,980 is the maximum allowable annual amount for Alston awards because that’s the most an individual athlete “could receive in an academic year in participation, championship or special achievement awards.”
Each institution is allowed to if and how it distributes Alston awards. At Colorado, athletes can earn up to $2,000 after the census dates of the fall and spring semesters, such that the award amount is proportional to each athlete’s athletic scholarship equivalency. This means the award is only available to scholarship athletes.
With Buffs4Life stepping in, the walk-on players on the Colorado football team will earn the same amount of compensation equivalent to the scholarship athletes. The collective made the announcement Tuesday on Twitter.
“We are providing $2,000 NIL deals to each Colorado football nonscholarship student-athlete, matching the Alston benefits their full-scholarship teammates receive,” the organization wrote.
Throughout each term, regardless of scholarship status, athletes can earn $990 in programming benefits by participating in departmental events.
According to Colorado’s policy, which was obtained by On3’s Andy Wittry, “the programming sessions will be directed by CU Athletics staff members within Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), Leadership Career Development (LCD) and Psychological Health and Performance (PHP). Programming registration and event attendance will take place through the CU Athlete app.”
Buffs4Life ramping up activity
The Buffs4Life Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides financial assistance and mental health resources for former Colorado athletes. This past October, it announced its decision to form the Buffs4Life collective, which was the first NIL-driven organization out of Yoke to join the Boulder market.
Its website states, “A tax-deductible financial contribution to the Buffs4Life NIL Collective can be made to the general fund that supports all CU student-athletes or to a specific team, group of student-athletes, or an individual student-athlete. 15% of every donation goes to the Buffs4Life Foundation while the rest goes directly towards compensating student-athletes for their name, image and likeness.”
As one of the last schools to have a collective launch at the Power 5 level, Buffs4Life is playing catch up. It hosted its first event with Colorado football players in January. At least nine Colorado players were in attendance at the Italian restaurant Carelli’s of Boulder before the Buffs’ basketball game with Washington.