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Volume 23 No. 34
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Spry offers tech platform for NIL tasks

Lyle Adams signed his alma mater, Wake Forest, as Spry’s first client.
Photo: wake forest university

A former Division I soccer player and Uber executive has started a tech-based business designed to help collegiate athletic departments manage the demands related to name, image and likeness legislation.

Spry, which was founded by CEO Lyle Adams in April, will announce its first client this week — Adams’ alma mater, Wake Forest.

When NIL rules eventually go into effect, athletic departments will be required to monitor and report each player’s commercial deals based on the NCAA proposals so far. It doesn’t matter if the athlete’s commercial activity is a national advertising campaign for a major brand or a simple appearance or autograph signing for a fee. Adams believes that 50% to 60% of college athletes will find some type of moneymaking NIL opportunity, even if most of them will be on social media or small, local deals.

With 460,000 athletes participating in college athletics, according to the NCAA, that creates the potential for a lot of record keeping and compliance monitoring.

Adams, in his meetings with school officials, has been asking, “How are you going to manage the technical complexities of putting a system in place to manage all of these deals, along with things like the impact on financial aid and taxes?”

Spry’s product will provide a database to house and analyze that information, which will enable the digital platform to calculate what a fair-market value should be for athletes’ appearances, one of the often-discussed challenges with the NCAA’s NIL model.

“This will provide the athletes an easy way to share their NIL opportunities with the school,” said Adams, 33, who is based in New York. “It also gives the schools a way to flag potential conflicts before it becomes a compliance problem.”

Adams has incorporated an educational component to assist with money management. If athletes, working as independent contractors, make enough money to be taxed, Spry will tell them how much they are going to owe and provide savings plans to prepare for 1099 income tax filings.

The disclosure process will flag companies if the commercial activity goes outside the bounds of the NCAA rules. For example, if a brand uses an athlete in a commercial, the athlete will upload an image into the Spry system for approval.

“The idea is not to be a blocker, it’s to protect the athlete,” Adams said. “There’s no way athletic departments can monitor every deal on social media or anywhere else. This is just leveraging technology to make everyone more efficient.”

Spry represents another company entering the evolving NIL marketplace, either as a dealmaker for the athletes or as a consultant or solutions provider for the athletic departments. Some schools have decided to outsource their management of NIL, while others plan to handle it in-house.

Another model is developing — a hybrid approach that combines educational components with brand-building and enforcement.

Adams began meeting with advisers and athletic department officials in April to share his idea and seek feedback. He’s visited with more than 20 schools so far. He began thinking about a tech-based solution for each school’s NIL needs a year ago as a student in the Columbia University masters program for sports management, which he will complete in December.

“Lyle brings experience from the tech ecosystem and as a former high-level Division I athlete, and he’s been creative in anticipating the NIL system that’s evolving,” said John Currie, Wake Forest’s athletic director. “There’s going to be a university responsibility to manage and support this new era in a compliant way.”