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Thursday, December 08, 2022

March Madness pays off for players under a jumble of rules

NEW ORLEANS ( Associated Press) – Eventually, some of the cold, hard cash in the billion-dollar world of college sports hits the wallets of the players themselves in legal ways. One expert estimates that by the time next year’s Final Four rolls around, every men’s basketball and soccer player on a major Division I list could earn $ 100,000 or more.

On the one hand, it is a long-awaited development that will forever change the landscape of what has been widely despised as one of the most unfair labor markets in America. On the other hand, trouble can threaten an industry with few rules that hand out big bucks to teens with big dreams.

“We have gone from a strict ban to being more liberal now than any other sports organization that exists,” said Mike Bobinski, Purdue’s athletics director, about the changes that have taken place over the past nine months. “And it’s a very strange transformation that we must somehow, I think, finally reach a middle ground here.”

This week, Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina and Duke will play in the first Final Four held under the new world of “name, image and likeness” (NIL) endorsements in college sports. That world consists of a loosely regulated multitude of state laws and university-written rules that set different standards across the country with little transparency about which players get what or where it comes from.

The ability of athletes to make money from endorsement transactions began last July 1, caused by a series of events: several states passed laws to make the arrangements legal; proposed federal legislation to regulate NIL has come to a standstill; the Supreme Court ruled in favor of athletes rights to be compensated; and the NCAA never found a way to put the new business model under its umbrella before the state laws came into force.

What resulted was an open market that, as Barbara Jones, the CEO of Outshine Talentput it, looks like “the Wild West, in that a lot of people are involved in it, and they do not know what they do not know.”

Because schools and athletes are under no obligation to disclose the terms of their agreements to endorse anything from seafood restaurants to sypajamas to sneakers, the parameters of both the individual agreements, and the sum of all the transactions combined, must be eradicated via anecdotes from social and traditional media, along with the rare news release from the schools themselves.

Within hours of Raina Perez of North Carolina making a theft and an essay in the dwindling seconds of last week’s Sweet 16 of the women’s tournament, her marketers produced a T-shirt.sold for $ 28, adorned with her name and the phrase “The Steal and the Lead.”

And when his team’s Cinderella run to the Elite Eight got steam, Saint Peter’s guard Doug Edert came into playwho announced on Instagram that he had entered into an agreement to hawk chicken wings.

Many of these transactions are small – four digits or less – and involve athletes using their social media platforms to promote products. Other arrangements come together before players even reach campus.

Earlier this month, The Athletic reported that a five-star high school soccer recruit has signed a NIL deal worth up to $ 8 million. The player’s name was kept confidential and the website reported he was signing with a fundraising collective from an unknown school.

The contract does not require the player to attend the donor group’s school, and therefore remains in accordance with possibly the only iron-clad rule in the NIL space – that schools themselves do not tie scholarships or recruit NIL transactions.

“I think NIL became kind of something we all hoped it would not be, but we thought it would probably be sometime,” Mississippi AD Keith Carter said.

At a rapidly increasing number of schools practicing large university sports, large donors fund so-called collective designed to sweeten the series of NIL transactions for players.

It opens doors for coaches to talk about NIL without offering direct endorsements.

“This is what I’m talking about in my recruitment sites, knowing the power of Notre Dame and having the resources to help them maximize their name, image and likeness will be very beneficial,” said Notre Dame women coach Niele Ivey Lady, said.

Blake Lawrence, whose company is Opendorse becoming a leading broker between players and companies, estimates every player on a men’s basketball and soccer list at a Power Five conference could soon make six figures.

“There are certain soccer teams where every starter drives around a brand new car,” Lawrence said. “A year ago it would have been the biggest red flag possible, and today it is expected in some of these markets.”

The coaches keep a close eye on all of them, whose fate may depend on business decisions made by teenagers who, under the letter of the law, are not allowed to influence them. That can be a good thing. Virtually every university sports scandal over the past 50 years has centered around either academic tampering or under-the-table money being passed on to recruits.

The NCAA has struggled terribly to govern in that behaviorand despite constant pleas from university sports leaders, the help of Congress they had hoped for was nowhere in sight.

There is not a ton of faith that the regulatory body, which has recently shown willingness to relinquish control of some top-line policy matters to the conferences, will do much better here.

“Unfortunately, I think we have proven that we can not rely on ourselves to just regulate ourselves,” says Bobinski, the Purdue AD.

At best, some coaches suggest that NIL can change things for the better and add a long-missing layer of stability to the more than 1,000 schools that run NCAA sports programs in America.

The “one-and-done” rule that allows basketball players to leave college for the NBA draft after one year of school has created a dividing line in Division I between schools that pursue those types of players (Kentucky, Duke, Kansas) and those generally not (Purdue, Wisconsin, Villanova).

The rapid movement of players has been enhanced by the refurbishment of the “transfer portal”, another justice movement that now allows players to change schools without putting out a season, as was the decades old practice.

The optimistic view is that if a player settles at a school while making decent money on the side, he or she can decide four years and a degree, all from the same school, is a doable thing.

“It’s my dream,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “That it’s better for college basketball and it’s better for NBA basketball. But I do not think the NCAA will ever be able to get it – they will not be able to control it.”

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Associated Press sports writers Aaron Beard, Pat Eaton-Robb, John Marshall, Jim Vertuno, Tim Booth, Larry Lage, Dan Gelston and Ralph Russo contributed.

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More Associated Press coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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