Press Box: How do NIL deals impact the collegiate sports playing field?

Illustration by Malaika Campbell.

Alexis Washington, Contributing Writer 

There has been a huge discussion for years on whether college athletes should get paid or not. 

Many argue athletes will focus only on the money aspect of sports and not on the sport itself, while others believe sports are physically demanding, so athletes deserve to be paid.

The NCAA responded to the debate on athletes’ pay by implementing name, image and likeness in June 2021, allowing student-athletes to make money from their personal brand, according to NCSA College Recruiting. 

The purpose of NIL is to utilize college athletes’ identities for commercial purposes, not in exchange for labor. 

There are regulations in place even though NIL is now allowed. Colleges can not reward players for their achievements, and coaches can not offer money to prospective students.

Before NIL, the NCAA prohibited college athletes from receiving monetary benefits other than the scholarship awarded. Some athletes received payments under the table despite the rule.

Reggie Bush, a former running back at the University of Southern California, received illegal forms of payments during his playing time from outside parties, according to ABC News. 

The NCAA found out and Bush had to return his 2005 Heisman Trophy and USC was penalized in 2010.

Athletes’ only job is to play their sport and provide entertainment prior to NIL deals, while multibillion-dollar corporations profited from them.

The NCAA made $15.5 billion in revenue from the March Madness tournament in 2023, according to the American Gaming Association.

“Traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student-athletes who are not fairly compensated,” Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said, according to CBS Sports, after the Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA rule allowing compensation for athletes.

NIL is a great way for athletes to build their own image and make money at the same time.

In fact, many college players are making more money in college than they would playing in their professional sports leagues. 

Caitlin Clark is the all-time scorer in men’s and women’s Division I. She built a name for herself and made $3.1 million in NIL earnings, surpassing any other women’s college basketball player. She has deals with Gatorade, State Farm and a future deal with Nike.

Clark was drafted by the Indian Fever as a No. 1 overall and signed a four-year contract totaling $338,056, according to USA Today. 

In her first year, Clark will earn under $100,000, meaning she makes more money in NIL deals than she will in the WNBA; she is not the only athlete facing this problem.

Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso and Rickea Jackson along with Clark were the first four picks of the 2024 WNBA draft. Each player was picked at the same value and will receive the same amount of money, according to USA Today

Athletes should make more money when they enter the professional league. The amount of dedication and time players put into their craft should be reflected in their pay. Especially in women’s sports, since they tend to be underrepresented in their salaries.

Athletes tend to stay and use all of their college eligibility because NIL deals pay more.

The future for NIL is looking bright for emerging college stars.

In the first year of the NIL, the market surpassed $900 million and is projected to grow beyond $1 billion.

NIL has changed the way collegiate sports operate. Players have to be even more cautious about their social media presence because it can drive away potential sponsorships and deals.  

One bad move could possibly lose an athlete their money. Companies do not want players with a poor image to represent their brand or product.

Big corporations break ties with athletes who do not align with their values. We see it all the time, even in professional sports. 

NIL has had a profound effect on players, but is it detrimental to the game?

Many argue yes if considering the movement in the transfer portal.

Athletes enter the transfer portal to earn more money in NIL deals if they are not satisfied with their current earnings.

Just like a regular job, if the pay is better somewhere else, then that’s where your talent will go.

The mentality of “chasing the bag” comes into effect and the state of collegiate sports deteriorates.

We can now stop wondering how college athletes can afford fancy cars and flashy jewelry; NIL deals are the answer.

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