Seems painfully obvious that there ought to be an ironclad rule against any NIL contact with recruits prior to signing. But how to enforce that? It’s hard to see how this is not going to get uglier and uglier.
I agree totally with this. I certainly want anybody with talent to take advantage of their NIL to profit from their talent as the market may allow. But, I am also a believer in regulation that makes sense so that the market works as it should.
On Friday, a five-star recruit in the Class of 2023 signed an agreement with a school’s NIL collective that could pay him more than $8 million by the end of his junior year of college, The Athletic has learned. He’ll be paid $350,000 almost immediately, followed by monthly payouts escalating to more than $2 million per year once he begins his college career, in exchange for making public appearances and taking part in social media promotions and other NIL activities “on behalf of (the collective) or a third party.”
While there’s no centralized database to reference other contracts, two NIL experts believe it’s the largest individual NIL deal signed by a non-professional athlete.
Blake Lawrence, the founder of the NIL marketing platform Opendorse, said a deal that high seems like an outlier but added, “Whatever casual sports fans or coaches think student-athletes are earning from collectives, they’re (undershooting) by 10X. While $2 million (a year) is wild, $200,000 isn’t, but most people are thinking they’re getting $20,000.”
Lawyer Mike Caspino, who drafted the contract, allowed The Athletic to review and verify the contract in exchange for keeping the player and collectives’ identities anonymous. It provides a window into how donor-driven third parties tied to specific schools operate.
As per NCAA rules, the contract explicitly states, “nothing in this Agreement constitutes any form of inducement for (the athlete) to enroll at any school and/or join any athletic team.” There is no mention of any specific university, only that he be “enrolled at an NCAA member institution and a member of the football team at such institution,” ostensibly to avoid violating the NCAA’s pay-for-play rule. The only specific circumstances by which the collective could terminate the contract early is if the player violates a confidentiality clause or a clause about conducting himself with “the utmost character and integrity.”
“There’s an element of trust there,” Caspino said in regards to a collective offering that much money with no written assurance the athlete will sign with the donors’ school come December.
But in exchange for receiving his lucrative advances, the player hands over to the collective exclusive rights to use of his NIL, which would then negotiate outside opportunities on his behalf. In theory, that could dissuade him from entering the transfer portal, as he would not be able to make paid appearances promoting his next school.
Caspino, who says he has worked on deals like this with about 30 high school players, said the original terms were far more one-sided toward the collective. He decried some of the tactics those groups and NIL agents are using to maintain control over the athlete.
In one draft version of another deal The Athletic reviewed, the collective agreed to pay an athlete $1.5 million across two years but could “from time to time” ask for repayment of that money, plus a 10 percent commission and expenses — even if the agreement were to be terminated.
“Man, that is terrifying, quite frankly,” said Malik S. Jackson, a Florida-based attorney who works in the NIL space. “That was a terrible provision, and if that’s put in, that’s a sign the collective is not athlete-centric. It can’t be.”
Jackson compared it to one-sided contracts in the music industry commonly referred to as “360 deals,” where record companies claim a share of an artist’s future earnings.
Caspino, however, was able to negotiate that language out of his client’s particular contract. It’s unclear if it has been included in others. Jackson said he hasn’t seen language like that in any contracts he has dealt with on behalf of companies but has not dealt with collectives often.
Caspino said he has also seen language in which the collective retains a player’s exclusive NIL rights for the duration of the contract even if it’s terminated early.
“There’s always some hook in there, that if they’re paying money, somehow, someway, that kid is going to have a deep financial inducement to stay at that university,” he said. “I’ll never have one of my clients sign that.”
His concern is that most high school players are signing deals like these without running them by an attorney first.
“The word ‘exclusive’ is the most expensive word for any athlete in any marketing agreement,” Lawrence said. “Student-athletes should own and maintain their NIL rights.”
But for some athletes and families, it may be too tempting to sign what’s offered, no matter the terms.
The fact that a high school junior has been promised more than $8 million to entice him toward a specific school — even if not put in writing — no doubt will horrify college administrators, many of them already frustrated by the NCAA’s inability to police NIL.
Last month, the NCAA Board of Directors asked the Division I Council to prepare a report by April assessing the impact NIL is having in recruiting, among other issues.
“We are concerned that some activity in the name, image and likeness space may not only be violating NCAA recruiting rules, particularly those prohibiting booster involvement, but also may be impacting the student-athlete experience negatively in some ways,” said board chair Jere Morehead, the president at the University of Georgia.
But many in the profession believe the NCAA wants no part in trying to enact restrictions on athletes’ NIL compensation due to last summer’s Supreme Court decision in the Alston antitrust case. As long as all parties are smart enough to not put anything recruiting-related in writing and the athlete can prove he or she is providing legitimate NIL services, there may be no limit to the rapidly soaring dollar figures permeating recruiting.
“Nobody knows what these kids are actually worth because there’s not enough data,” Lawrence said. “Imagine you’re selling your home, Zillow never existed and someone comes up and says they’ll give you $50,000 for your house. You have no idea whether that’s good or bad, but it sounds like a lot, so you take it. But then you go and search Zillow and find out it was actually worth $500,000.”
The top high school prospects are quickly learning they’re worth far more than that.
Hell, maybe kids will stay in school longer since they can make more playing college ball than pro (TIC)
With this kind of money being thrown around, they should start considering making athletic scholarships need-based. In my mind, someone making well into the 6 figures annually due to their association with a college athletic program, should be able to handle the cost of their education.
So, in the end, what’s worse… The bagmen who funnel funds to players under the table, (see Zion Williamson named in new book on college basketball FBI scandal - Sports Illustrated) or, these new collectives, who essentially are bagmen with some legal basis behind them?
I am not sure which is worse, but it sure makes me feel more dirty about being interested in college athletics. Not that I would ever give it up, just feel a bit more dirty.
Interesting article. I notice they mentioned how the Williamson’s lived in a nice place in Durham, but then never mentioned Coach K.
Yeah, its funny how coaches like Miller, Self, and Krizolonski never get punished in that way (though Arizona did finally get rid of Miller, but only once he stopped winning big). College basketball, in that way, works a lot like the mob, gotta keep the godfather insulated from the deeds of the street bosses.
Wasn’t it once discussed here that Coach Larry wouldn’t stoop to the tactics and thereby lost recruiting ground?
Very possibly. I was more concerned with Larry keeping the recruits that he did land.
I believe Larry missed out on a number of guys that were rumored to have Utah at the top of their list. Markannon and Yurtseven come to mind.
I think that’s part of what was going on. He wouldn’t play dirty like other teams would and lost players as a result. Plus he was old school discipline wise which didn’t sit well with some players I heard.
We did regularly seem to lose committed players to Arizona and other schools at the last minute. It looked pretty suspicious.
Doesn’t take much intelligence to do a post mortem on this season. This is especially true in an up year overall and at the top for the Pac 12. Pac 12 was stronger this season than since Utah joined the conference.
In a sentence, you can’t have a winning season in the Pac 12 with MWC players. Not in a good Pac 12 year. Craig Smith scrambled to fill another big hole left by mass transfers from Krystkowiak’s program with the limited time and resources he had. They were starters on Utah State and UNLV. Good enough to prevent an 0-22 disaster, but not good enough for a winning season. Add to this, the fluidity and dislocation caused by NIL.
Craig Smith can’t be judged until he is able to establish a system in the new regime to get him the minimal talent he needs to compete. Being Utah in the Pac 12, there is no reason this can’t happen. But he’ll need time to rebuild and adjust to the new world after the ravages left by Chris Hill’s hires.
The very top of the conference may have been steller, but overall the conference was horrible. Only 3 tourney teams, even though all the other conference teams got to play other horrible confference teasm, and no one else could emerge.
they felt better. Maybe because we were worse.
But my main point stands.
Until Craig Smith has a chance to get some players that give him a chance to be competitive, there is no ground on which to judge him. None. Impatience here will only further damage the program.
One disheartening thing I’ve learned from social media is how emotionally overwrought and stupid so many fans are. Some of you may remember my facebook post after the BYU and SDS football losses telling everyone to calm down. I was right.
I’m glad that with few exceptions posters here are not like that. Probably why we post here, not facebook.
I think this is the overwhelming view of people who post here. I can think of only 2-3 exceptions.
No. And for the record, I’m not one of them.