July 1 marked a day of revolution in collegiate athletics. For the first time, NCAA student-athletes weren’t bound by the inability to receive benefits related to their name, image, and likeness. They’re still not getting paid by the schools they represent, but they can get paid by pretty much anyone else, and that is a great thing for the athletes and the fans that want to see them compensated.
I don’t see a downside right now except for college athletes maybe getting a little too powerful and auctioning off their transfer portal rights to the highest-bidding sponsor. But even that just makes the transfer portal more like free agency in pro sports, so is there that much harm? I think it’s much more exciting that athletes might have an incentive to stay in school instead of bolting for the pro ranks as soon as they possibly can.
That’s not a huge deal in football, where players can’t enter the NFL Draft until they’re three years removed from high school, but basketball could see a whole lot more players staying in school rather than take their chances in the NBA Draft, where only 60 players are selected each year. Just think of all the attention Zion Williamson generated when he was a freshman at Duke. How much can that kind of stardom be monetized? I’m not saying that top NBA prospects like Williamson will opt out of the draft, but there are plenty of hoops stars that aren’t big pro prospects that stand to make a lot of money off of NIL.
One company that wasted no time dipping its toes into the NIL waters is Barstool Sports.
When you’re as brilliant as El Pres, great ideas just come to you. This time, the idea literally came from Adelaide Halverson, a volleyball player from Jacksonville State who shot her shot and ended up launching a movement. Now athletes from all over the country are signing up to be sponsored by Barstool, which is already a popular media brand on college campuses. And it’s only going to get more popular now that it can officially sponsor athletes.
Not only is this great for Barstool and the athletes, but it’s also great for some of the less popular sports that the athletes are coming from. Signing with Barstool is a great way to bring attention to non-revenue sports like volleyball, field hockey, etc. that tend to operate in the background at many schools.
I’m sure at some point we’ll see the “dark side” to NIL. Maybe a shady company will try taking advantage of an athlete or the large revenue differences between players will cause a rift in the locker room. For now, though, all we’re seeing is hard-working college athletes finally being able to get some extra rewards for their efforts, and it’s a great thing.