Finally, the legitimate means by which some of the hard-earned cash in college sports’ billion-dollar industry is reaching players’ pockets has been established. According to one expert, each player in men’s football and basketball on a major Division I roster could make $100,000 by next year’s Final Four.
It’s a long overdue development that will forever alter the face of an industry widely criticized as one of the most unfair labor markets in America. Trouble could also be coming for an industry that has few rules and gives big money to teens with big dreams.
Mike Bobinski, Purdue’s athletic director, said that the organization has gone from being strictly prohibited to being more open than any other sport organization. He spoke about the changes in the last nine months. “And that’s an odd transformation that we must somehow, I believe, strike a middleground here.
This week, Duke, Villanova and Kansas will face off in the first Final Four under the new “name, image, and likeness (NIL), endorsements in college sport. This world is a mix of loosely regulated state laws and university-written rules. It sets different standards across the country, with little transparency as to who gets what or from where.
Last July 1, athletes were able to make money from endorsement deals. This was triggered by several events. many states passed laws to make these arrangements legal. Federal legislation to regulate NIL was stalled . Supreme Court ruled that athletes had the right to be compensated. NCAA did not find a way for the new model to be included under its umbrella.
The result was an open market, which, according to Barbara Jones , CEO of Outshine Talent said, “resembles the Wild West in that a lot people are involved in it, and they don’t know what else they don’t know.”
Schools and athletes are not required to disclose terms of endorsement deals for anything, from seafood restaurants to silk pajamas and sneakers. The parameters of each agreement and the total of all deals must be teased out using anecdotes from traditional media and the rare news release by the schools.
After Raina Perez of North Carolina State made a steal and layup in the final seconds of the Sweet 16 women’s tournament, her marketing team had created a T-shirt for $28. It featured her name and the catchphrase “The Lead and the Steal.”
As his team’s Cinderella run to Elite Eight was gaining steam, Saint Peter’s guard Doug Edert got in on the act and announced via Instagram that he had signed a deal to sell chicken wings.
Most of these deals are very small, less than four figures. They involve athletes using social media to promote products. Others are made before the players ever reach campus.
The Athletic reported earlier this month that a five-star highschool football recruit had signed a NIL deal worth up to $8million. The website did not reveal the player’s identity and reported that he had signed with an unknown fund-raising collective.
The contract doesn’t require that the player attend the school of the donor group. This is in compliance with perhaps the most important rule in the NIL space: schools don’t tether scholarships to NIL deals or recruit to them.
“I think NIL is kind of becoming something that we all hoped it wouldn’t be, but we believed that it would at some point,” Mississippi AD Keith Carter stated.
A rapidly growing number of schools play college sports of major importance, and large-money donors are now funding collectives to increase the NIL deals for players.
This allows coaches to speak about NIL without offering endorsements.
Niele Ivey, Notre Dame women’s coach, said, “That’s exactly what I talk about when I recruit pitches, knowing the power and Notre Dame and having the resources that help them maximize their name and image is going to be very advantageous.”
Blake Lawrence estimates that every player on a roster of men’s football and basketball players at a Power Five conference could soon earn six figures. His company Opendorse has become a major broker between players, companies and players.
Lawrence stated that there are “certain football teams” where every starter drives around a brand-new car. “A year ago that would have been a red flag. Today, it’s commonplace in certain markets.”
The coaches are closely watching all of this. Their fates could depend on the business decisions made in the future by teens that they are forbidden to influence. This could be a good thing. Nearly all scandals in college sports have revolved around academic tampering and under-the-table money being transferred to recruits over the past 50 years.
The NCAA has been struggling to control that behavior. Despite constant pleas from college sport leaders, Congress is not providing the assistance they need.
It is not likely that the regulating body which has recently shown willingness to hand over some of the top-line policy issues to the conferences will be able to do better.
Bobinski, Purdue AD, stated that “Unfortunately, we have proven that we cannot rely on ourselves just to self-regulate.”
Some coaches believe that NIL could make things better in the best case scenario and provide stability for more than 1,000 NCAA-affiliated schools across America.
The “one and done” rule, which allows players to leave college after one year, has created a divide in Division I between schools who pursue these types of players (Kentucky Duke, Kansas), and those that don’t (Purdue Wisconsin, Villanova).
The “transfer portal” has been redesigned to allow players to move quickly between schools. This is a fair move that allows players not to miss a season as it was decades ago.
One optimistic view is that a player who settles down at school and makes decent money on the side might decide four years of schooling and a degree are possible.
Jay Wright, Villanova coach, said that “that’s my dream.” It’s better than college basketball, and it’s even better for NBA basketball. However, I doubt the NCAA will ever be able get it. They won’t be able control it.