CHARLOTTE, NC – Devin Leary can only imagine what it’s like to be a high school rookie in the age of college athletes who can finally enjoy their fame. North Carolina State’s fourth-year quarterback numbers, there will be plenty of questions on how to cash in.
“As a rookie now,” Leary said, “I think it’s important to ask because you always want to know what’s the best opportunity for yourself.”
The sponsorship deals came immediately after the NCAA allowed athletes to earn money for the use of their name, image and taste starting this month. This has added a giant new wrinkle to the recruiting process, with coaches able to tout business opportunities alongside the usual selling points such as facilities, TV exposure, career development, and quaint campuses.
“If I’m a quarterback watching the SEC, ACC Schools, Big Schools, that could be a big thing,” said Boston College graduate offensive lineman Zion Johnson. “I think for some players that could be a determining factor.”
On league media days across the country, several coaches noted that the NIL era is so new that they are still figuring out what it means for players on their current rosters, let alone how. will affect those who have not yet signed. There was also uncertainty among some as to how that would work without falling into the realm of prohibited “pay-to-play” arrangements to secure engagement.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald offered his own direct assessment, which appeared to be an exercise in debunking all of the NIL-based recruiting arguments by competitors.
“Right now there’s a lot of head coaches going up on a stage, singing a bunch of songs that they have no idea what they’re singing,” Fitzgerald said. “’We have the biggest NIL’. They are all full of it. That’s all I’m going to say. No one knows what they are doing. They all pretend. I’ll be the first to admit it. If we focus on education, this thing will sort of play out, as a whole. “
It didn’t help that authorized NIL activities started under a patchwork of state laws or decrees authorizing NIL activities. There are no standardized rules and the NCAA has left specific guidelines for school compliance offices. Wider NCAA regulations or federal law are now about to happen.
“The biggest concern… is federal legislation would be nice because, if you look and paint across the country, not everyone is playing by the same rules,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “In other words, some schools are allowed to enter into agreements. Some schools are not allowed to enter into agreements. “
In the Big 12, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said the early days of the NIL agreements – which typically only require an athlete to provide anything of value in exchange for compensation – have already offered information on which schools will “pass and push the rules in this game.” He also offered a rosier line of thinking.
“If I’m a tempted player, to get illegally paid in my recruiting, should I even play with that when I know I can just make money legally and not compromise my name or my eligibility or all that? ” Riley said. “So in some ways it can level it up a bit, if you will. I think the purists hope so. But the reality is that we’re going to have to have lines and regulations, especially when it comes to recruiting to make it work and not be a mess. “
At least in the ACC, several coaches weren’t ready to commit to any major changes in their approach to recruiting with NIL.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said it was “just another one of those tools” to help. Boston College coach Jeff Hafley believes he will use it as part of a school’s field in a major media market. And NC State coach Dave Doeren noted that “This thing just hit us” before saying, “I need to see where this is going before I sign with it.”
North Carolina coach Mack Brown highlighted the “gray area” coaches need to balance in terms of orienting players who navigate the new NIL landscape but keep enough distance to avoid exercising too much. influence on a decision.
It’s also a conflict that new ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips sees. And it’s going to take time to find clear answers with that, like everything else.
“There’s a little bit of a lag there,” Phillips said. “So it becomes: how far are you going in recruiting? And it has different definitions in different places.
“It’s kind of the uncontrollable of this thing: how ingrained is it and how heavy is it during the recruiting process? How heavy and ingrained is it once you get to campus? And these are institutional decisions at the moment. They are, because there really aren’t any metrics that keep us all on the same level. “
AP college football writer Ralph D. Russo and AP sports writers John Zenor and Stephen Hawkins contributed.
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