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How Close Are We to Uni Ads on College Football Jerseys?

As many of you are probably aware, the whole state of college athletics has been in flux for the past couple years. If you haven’t been paying attention, NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) rules allow college athletes to be paid, changes to the “transfer portal” have made it much easier for athletes to change schools without losing eligibility, and other big changes are afoot. The PAC-12 basically exists no more, with all but two schools to join new conferences starting this fall. This free-for-all has left many programs scrambling, while the SEC and B1G seem on course to eventually become 32-team SuperPower Conferences. The College Football Playoff, established only a few years ago, allowed four teams to fight to become National Champion. That’s expanding to twelve teams this year.

All this has led college athletics to search for additional revenue streams, but the biggest effect occurred last week, when a historic $2.8 billion judgment provided revenue sharing with athletes, as part of settlement terms in the House v. NCAA and related antitrust cases. The roughly $2.8 billion figure is merely for damages — universities would still be on the hook for future payments to athletes as well.

To boost their revenues with this expected multi-billion settlement, two upcoming changes are being discussed that will significantly alter the on-field aesthetic: the first would permit “corporate sponsorships” (aka, ads) to be placed on football fields themselves, and on jerseys.

The possibility of uni ads for college football (as well as other sports) uniforms isn’t exactly new. In fact, back in 2021, I explored this very possibility (which thankfully went nowhere at the time). There is a much greater exigency now.

An NCAA spokesperson said Wednesday that its rules committee will discuss a proposal at its June 6 meeting to add “corporate sponsorships” to football fields and jerseys. In other words, in about a week, the NCAA could begin in earnest to enact on-field and jersey ads.

While uni (and on-field) ads are far from a fait accompli, it increasingly seems likely with each passing day.

Currently, there are restrictions on what can appear on an NCAA football jersey. At present, the limits are defined by the NCAA Division I Manual which states that uniforms “shall bear only a single manufacturer’s or distributor’s normal label or trademark” that can’t be larger than 2.25 square inches in size (i.e. a “swoosh”). Teams are also permitted to wear a conference affiliation patch; other patches (such as those worn for Bowl game appearances) are also permitted. But ads of any size are still prohibited.

“I believe the NCAA is going to allow us to put a sponsor logo on the field during the regular season,” Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin said Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference’s spring meetings in Miramar Beach, Florida, according to USA Today. “That’s an obvious revenue stream that has not been there in the past. The pro sports are putting patches on jerseys. That doesn’t seem like something that’s crazy for us to consider these days.”

This is all very depressing news. But it’s hardly surprising. The NCAA for years has been considering jersey and on-field ads, but the recent proposed revenue sharing settlement seems to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, opening the floodgates, as it were, to a much more concerted effort to make these ads a reality.

According to Front Office Sports, “The historic settlement includes damages to Division I athletes who competed in the pre–name, image, and likeness era from 2016 to ’21, and each of those schools’ annual revenue-sharing models beginning in the fall of ’25 will start around $20 million, if not higher.”

Are uni ads (or on-field ads) a certainty? No — many details still need to be hashed out, and the proposed settlement has not been given final approval. In addition, athletes themselves will be involved in the process, and they would need to approve the proposed changes as well.

We’ll know more for sure after June 6 just how close we are to uni and on-field ads. For those of us who are opposed to ads where they don’t belong — like college uniforms and fields — this bears watching.

Comments (22)

    Decision Day will be next. A high school senior, with his family, will have a table of hats from which he will choose his college. In addition, a cloth backdrop will contain the logo of the sponsor, just like a post-game interview.

    True. But nobody has to pay any attention to that “Decision Day”. I certainly don’t.

    Need more money. Gotta have more money. Money, money, money until we completely destroy it.

    Ads are definitely coming, especially since schools can pay the players now. In a way they already have since I believe both the Mississippi schools have had camo unis with the brand logo in them.

    I suspect we’re just a few lawsuits away from players getting individual uni ad logo deals.

    Good point, Bob! I imagine the pro leagues have some sort of clause in contracts or the CBA which forbids that. If the pro athletes could do it they would already be doing it.

    Few things have felt this inevitable.
    A lot of the new stadiums and arenas already have corporate names (Papa John’s/Louisville, Yum! Center/Louisville, Dunkin Donuts Center/Providence, Verizon Center/Maryland) but they’ve had to keep their names off the courts. Bowl game patches have conspicuously made room for sponsors. Schools need money, and rather than pare back and tighten the budgets, they’ll push for whatever money they can get.

    I feel like I’ve seen a lot of corporate arena names on courts and fields. I know USC football has a United Airlines logo, and I’m pretty sure PC has the Amica logo on their floor

    Schools absolutely do not need the money. The businesses theyve become do. Yet kids still have to take on loans and we still have to bail out those loans. Can’t do much about private schools but if I were dictator for a day Id shut down the athletics program of every public college in America. Theyre disgusting. Make schools schools again.

    My prediction is that Pro sports and sports viewership as we see it today is at peak consumption. Soon games will be streaming on several apps, in addition to RSN, local and nation TV. Ticket prices and merch are also at all time highs despite inflation and other political climates not suited for this blog. Eventually there will be fatigue, shifts in trends, desires for other activities. By this point North American pro sports will look like Euro with ads everywhere. First it will be to increase revenue but later as a means to keep revenue’s from falling when the decline happens. I really hope this isn’t the case, or at least most of this is wrong and I’m just a sky is fall guy, but if how it’s going continues I see this as the eventual landing point down the road, just not sure if its 20, 30 or 50 years from now.

    It’s never enough. NBA has huge TV deals and they still put ads on uniforms. These conference deals are worth tens of millions per year per school, but they want more.

    I’m sure it’s just around the corner. Gotta feed the beast…and that takes money. A whole lotta money. The NCAA is a toothless waste of space. Its rules and regulations mean nothing. If the SEC and Big 10 want uni ads, there will be uni ads.

    Ohio State already has an ad on the 25 yard line of the Shoe. It’s an auto glass repair company based in Columbus.

    As a uniform person, I’m not happy about the inevitability of ads, but as someone whose paycheck comes from a college athletic department I see the necessity. Even without the complication of the revenue sharing settlement (which is going to lead to layoffs in athletic departments), NIL made selling advertising space super complicated, especially on social media posts. At least at my institution, several deals for social media ads have had to be altered or terminated because implementing them while accounting for NIL became too complicated. Playing surfaces and uniforms are one of the only untapped frontiers, and probably would have happened within the next 5ish years even without the settlement. I’m interested to see how much of it creeps into non-football/basketball sports, especially the ones that typically only are broadcast on streaming, such as tennis or swim/dive.

    Well said, Jacob. And agreed on-field and uni ads would likely have happened regardless of the settlement, but that probably expedited things. But (as my link shows) it’s definitely not new. I’d say the NCAA has been eyeing jersey ads ever since the NBA “popped the balloon” as it were. The floodgates flew open after that.

    It would be very complicated to put advertising on NCAA uniforms because of NIL. It’s relatively simple for a school to put it on their field but on a uniform is different because it’s affixed to an individual player and that player would be entitled to compensation for wearing an ad that at least in part is profiting from its association with that particular player (at least that would be the players’ argument here). In the end, this wouldn’t be a way for NCAA schools to recoup any (or much) of that $2.8 billion because any ad patch revenue would have to be shared with the athletes. So I’m dubious that that will happen.

    We’ve had ads on college football uniforms for a long time. Almost every bowl game patch is a corporate advertisement for the bowl sponsor.

    Enough ads. There are already too many. Hockey has them on the ice, boards, sweaters, helmets, glass behind the bench and in some leagues, on the goal posts. Baseball is ridiculous as well. Watching a game last week, there were 8 different ads just from the 2nd base view as the pitcher was pitching. One on the back of the mound, 4 behind the catcher, more on the seats/stairs behind the catcher, and of course on the uniforms of both teams. Then more ads on the 1st and 3rd base foul line. Then of course on the outfield wall and all over the stadium outfield. It’s be come so overburdensome, no one pays attention.

    College sports are dead to me. There’s no point now. I agree that the athletes were previously shafted. But making it just another for profit pro-league with players bouncing around from team to team, it’s dumb. I’m out.

    Rapidly heading that way too. If I want pro sports, I’ll watch the NFL and NBA, not less talented versions of both.
    Players have a right to get all they can. Just like I have a right to walk away.

    Players will have a CBA agreed to with the schools via a players union in the near future, just like the pros have. Because student athletes will become pros. The only difference is that they will make less money and have the opportunity for an education. Uniform minimum rules for all student pros as we should call them, the NIL will be part of the individual contract of the athlete with the school. College sports as an official minor league of the major leagues. Next step: dropping SAT’s for student pros as most of them will not graduate anyway. Sad developments. Education used to be first priority.

    Some athletes with NIL’s are already making millions in those deals, so they’re making more money (in a few instances) in college than some professional players are.

    As far as this…

    dropping SAT’s for student pros as most of them will not graduate anyway.

    let’s not go there. It’s not germane to the discussion, and not necessarily accurate.

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