NIL is Making a Massive Impact on College Basketball, for Programs and Players

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One of the biggest changes across college sports is the introduction of new rules regarding name, image, and likeness. Now that athletes can be compensated through NIL deals, programs and boosters around the country have tried to make an impact by organizing NIL programs for their players.

The entire college sports ecosystem is still reacting to the changes, both from NIL and the transfer portal. As the changes continue to take more effect, it will be interesting to see how they will change college basketball.

NIL and the Transfer Portal

While NIL deals are strictly prohibited from serving as a recruiting tool, they can still have an impact on where players choose to go to school. The transfer portal has become an increasingly big story within college sports across the last two seasons, and the combination of it and NIL will have a growing impact on college basketball over the next several years.

As NIL programs continue to be established across the country it will increasingly affect decision-making and roster-building. One of college basketball’s biggest programs, Duke, recently hired Rachel Baker in a GM role. One of the duties of the new role is overseeing NIL programs for Duke athletes.

Baker’s new role at Duke will almost certainly not be the only example of a NIL-related role in college basketball. Athletics departments around the country are trying to identify the best ways to maximize the potential of the new rules.

While many of the major programs in college basketball will benefit from the relationship between NIL and the transfer portal, it is possible that mid-major programs will find it harder to compete under the new rules. If NIL is strictly enforced as the NCAA wants it to be, placing an emphasis on fair-market value, then programs in smaller markets that aren’t large brands will find it difficult to compete.

This is one of the main debates surrounding NIL as it is currently being implemented. The rules, as presently written, may make it harder for athletes at mid-major programs to get the same NIL deals being offered to athletes at major programs.

Matters only become more complicated when state laws are factored in, as the very laws that paved the way for athletes to benefit under NIL have now made the rules vary from state to state, further complicating competitive-balance issues.

What Programs Could Benefit Most From NIL

While state laws, NCAA bylaws, and a possible federal law surrounding NIL continue to be worked on and improved, there will be no perfect answer to how to best implement and regulate NIL rules in college basketball. No matter the solution that is decided upon or the changes made to the current system, there will still be programs that benefit more than others in this new reality.

It is likely that the chief beneficiaries will be the biggest brands within the sport. Programs such as Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and North Carolina will be able to offer better NIL benefits than mid-major teams and most of the programs within their own conference.

This has already been seen at Kentucky, where Oscar Tshiebwe’s decision to play another season in college may be the best example of the impacts name, image, and likeness can have. Tshiebwe, the national player of the year last season, chose to return to college, due, in part, to over $2 million in NIL deals. It was massive news for Kentucky, a perennial national title contender, to return one of the best players in the sport alongside a Top 20 recruiting class.

Tshiebwe’s decision to remain at Kentucky is one of the biggest stories of the offseason so far and shows just how big of an impact NIL can have on a major program. In the future, some of the best players in college basketball may choose to remain in college in part due to their ability to benefit from NIL deals.

Programs in major media markets could also gain an advantage, due to the increased marketing and NIL opportunities in major cities. Miami, USC, UCLA, and Texas, among others, could benefit massively due to the location of their campuses.

As college basketball, and all college sports, enter a new era, NIL could have a profound impact on the future of the sport. The introduction of NIL into college basketball could introduce new programs to the national spotlight, and impact how players choose where to go to college and when they leave for professional basketball.