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UVA AD Carla Williams talks NIL, COVID, return to normalcy

carla williams acc kickoff
UVA athletics director Carla Williams talks with reporters at the 2021 ACC Kickoff. Photo by Scott German.

The guy who might be the starting QB at Alabama is about to bring in a cool mill this year. That’s more than UVA athletics director Carla Williams takes home.

NIL is changing the college sports landscape, alright.

“Whenever there’s change, you know, it’s challenging, and there’s a lot of unknown, like, we don’t really know the details of any of those cases,” Williams told reporters Wednesday at the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte.

NIL stands for name, image, likeness. After decades of not allowing student-athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness, the NCAA, at the point of a Supreme Court bayonet, opened up what is already shaping up as a wild, wild west in terms of new money flowing into the pockets of the kids.

How will it all shake out?

“It’s difficult to say right now,” Williams conceded. “Is it scary because it’s unknown? Yes. But it does provide opportunities as well. I’m hoping that it will be beneficial for student-athletes everywhere.”

Williams said her department began planning for the change that we could all see coming before the pandemic, and that work continues as everybody starts to get a handle on where things are headed.

“We’re working with our partners on Grounds, and also we partner with influencers to help our student-athletes through the process,” Williams said. “It’s a great opportunity, and anyone that, you know, tells you they have figured it out, not quite sure about that. We’re learning along the way, and hopefully, it will be a good thing for the student-athletes.”

Williams estimates that less than 50 of UVA’s roughly 750 student-athletes have engaged in the NIL process with the athletics department’s compliance office to date.

As more come online, it’s possible that the department will need to add more staff in the compliance office.

“Yeah, we’re we’re looking at that right now,” Williams said. “Thankfully, several of us have a compliance background, which is always helpful. So that’s helped UVA. But yeah, we’ll look at whether or not we need to add someone in compliance.”

Also high on the agenda in the athletics office is the progress of COVID-19 vaccinations. Williams said more than 90 percent of staff and student-athletes are fully vaccinated at this point, with the university mandating that all students and staff are fully vaccinated before returning to Grounds in the fall, with limited exceptions for religious and medical reasons.

Could that be a competitive advantage for UVA teams in the fall?

“I hope so. I hope so,” Williams said. “I mean, we think it’s important to be vaccinated, and our student-athletes have done a great job getting there. Our staff and coaches have done a phenomenal job with the vaccinations. And so, we hope. We want to compete, and we know that being vaccinated gives us the best chance to compete.”

As society moves closer and closer to the vaccination targets, Williams, like the rest of us, is looking ahead to what is shaping up to be a normal sports year.

“We’re excited to be fully operational in the fall. Our coaches are excited. The student-athletes are excited. I know the fans already are ready for it. So hopefully things will continue to go in the right direction,” Williams said.

Story by Chris Graham

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