NIL: Player Control and the Landscape of College Hoops

It is obvious that college athletes deserve to be compensated. For a long time, collegiate athletes were being commodified. Schools recruited young adults for their benefit to not only their team, but the potential popularity and revenue a certain athlete can bring to an institution. Athletes were given a free education as an excuse for this, but everything changed when a bill was passed that allowed collegiate athletes to be compensated off of their name, image and likeness which is known as NIL. It has now been almost two years since NIL was enacted, and it is the perfect time to look at the effects NIL has had, and the effects it will continue to have.

When looking at the impact NIL has had thus far on college basketball, it is clear that players finally have some luxury that is allowing them to have some more say in where they go based on the possible monetary benefits, they will receive for committing to a certain program. Take Nijel Pack for example, the electrifying Miami point guard who was named to the All-Midwest Regional Tournament team and recently helped surge the Hurricanes into their first Final Four in program history. Pack, who entered the transfer portal after two successful seasons at Kansas State, signed a $800,000 NIL deal with LifeWallet, inking the guard to play for at least two seasons in Coral Gables. Some critics have come out to say that NIL is going to become fully lopsided and will “ruin” college basketball for years to come, pointing out Pack’s deal. They discuss the fact that the biggest schools with the most money will always be able to buy out players compared to schools with less money. This is an interesting point though, as corruption has always been an issue in college sports. Regardless of NIL, the top schools still had the most resources, showing why they get the best recruits’ year in and year out. I do not necessarily think, for those top schools, that any of their top recruits would attend a smaller school if NIL was off the table. Others, meanwhile, have praised the Miami Hurricanes basketball program for taking advantage of NIL and not only benefitting their season and Pack’s personal life, but it will lead to the Miami Basketball Program to see continued success, mainly through recruiting by using NIL to their advantage.

Moving forward with the topic of player control, over 20% of scholarship players have entered the portal following the conclusion of the 2022-23 college basketball season. This number is only continuing to grow and looking at a lot of the top players who entered the portal, it was not because of a lack of opportunity. This allows me to jump to the conclusion that of course there are factors such as happiness, family, and friends, but I do believe a lot of it has to do with their best opportunity to not only succeed in their new program on the court, but off the court as well in terms of NIL. Hunter Dickinson has been the centerpiece of Michigan’s basketball program for the last three seasons. Dickinson entered the portal recently, which was a surprise, as the big man is glorified in Ann Arbor and to Michigan fans across the country. Michigan and Juwan Howard do a great job recruiting but it has yet to translate into winning basketball. Michigan is always a program who will be in the NCAA tournament or on the bubble, so winning or having the chance to perform at the highest stage does not seem like it has to do with his decision. Maybe Michigan’s NIL is not good enough for a player who will be looked at as a possible Naismith Player of the Year heading into next season, or maybe Dickinson decided it was just time for something new. Regardless, he has taken his time thus far in his recruitment process since entering the portal. The NIL deals must be coming in left and right, and for Dickinson, he has all of the power in his hands to decide where he wants to play, something that did not seem realistic entering the portal three years ago.

Another positive is the fact that players will be more enticed to return to school. The enticement usually came from the possibility of competing for a National Championship or earning their degrees. Now, it comes from the possibility of making money by signing NIL deals. This trust in a player will also translate to loyalty from them, wanting them to stay at their given program as the program believed in them more than just a scholarship, but with large amounts of money. A lot of the players who have left schools did not have a lot of NIL possibilities at their programs as well as players who came into school before NIL was enacted. Those players committed to school because it was the best option for them in terms of basketball, but now with NIL, the recruiting process will certainly start to skew towards the money aspect of things. Maybe young athletes will be given multi-year offers like Pack did and decide that it is best for them and their family. A lot of athletes also realize that their chances of making the NBA, even as a division 1 basketball player is slim, so the chance to lock up money that will help their families out for years to come is something that is too hard to pass up on sometimes. With this, there will certainly be a fresh culture in college basketball that will be one to adjust to. It will take some time, and just like before NIL was enacted, there will always be people who are for it and who are against it. This debate will only start to become more prevalent in the world of college basketball, especially as NIL deals start to make waves when transfer portal players make their decisions.

Ben Silver

Vegas Sports

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