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NIL Is Changing College Sports Recruiting: Here’s How It Impacts Pennsylvania Athletes

MARKETWATCH PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/GETTY IMAGES, ISTOCKPHOTO
MARKETWATCH PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/GETTY IMAGES, ISTOCKPHOTO

When the NCAA began to allow direct compensation for college student-athletes through NIL (Name Image and Likeness), it created a major culture shift in college athletics and recruiting. 

NIL allows high school recruits and college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness. Although colleges are still not allowed to pay high school recruits and college athletes directly, it is an easy workaround to allow these players to get compensation. 

With NIL, players can profit from endorsements, sell apparel with their face and name on it, and even from school donors’ money, all of which they were not allowed to do before the rule existed. The fact that student-athletes can receive money from school donors is vital because this allows schools to essentially pay money upfront through “donor-backed” deals that give student-athletes money straight into their pockets.

Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, located about 35 miles west of Pittsburgh, is home to high school basketball phenom Meleek Thomas. The class of 2025 student-athlete holds offers from top colleges such as Duke, Kentucky, and Connecticut. According to ON3 Elite, his NIL valuation is around $222K. This means a 17-year-old kid has a value of nearly a quarter of a million dollars just for playing high school basketball.

NCAA Divisions I, II, and III are all eligible to earn NIL deals, however for the lower levels of the NCAA, NIL looks a little different.

Leonard Trevino, Vice President of Athletics and Recreation at Chatham Univerisity, said about the recruiting process changing since the implementation of NIL that, “For our level, it’s not really that big of an impact… at least not in the initial recruiting phase.” He said that a handful of student-athletes at Chatham have NIL deals, but none of them come from university donors; all come from the athletes’ own social media presence, such as men’s ice hockey player Ben Lamm, who is a barstool sports athlete. Being a barstool athlete means he receives special barstool merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatpants. 

This is not the case at a big division one school such as the University of Pittsburgh. According to Chris Hoppe, the Deputy Athletic Director at Pitt, Pitt has 500+ NIL deals, but only about 100 come from the university collective, which is made up mostly of booster and donor money. Despite the smaller percentage of total deals from the collective, those deals make up most of the money. 

Despite this, the opportunities outside of the University collective are massive. Gatorade commercials, autograph signings, and social media posts are just a few of the ways he mentioned that Pitt student-athletes have made money from NIL deals outside of the collective.

Another huge change that has come with the addition of NIL into the world of college sports is the shift in the dynamic between the university and its recruits. “Before, it was about what we could do for your education opportunities…. for some now, it’s about the money,” says Chatham’s Trevino.

Hoppe had a similar response, bringing up that at a big school such as Pitt, the transfer portal has become much more active and almost entirely money-based. At both schools, coaches must check up on players’ mental health more often and ensure they have everything they need to prevent a transfer to a different school offering more money.

For Allderdice’s own student-athletes, both Trevino and Hoppe gave some advice on how to navigate the world of NIL. Both said that the number one priority should still be to find the school that will best prepare you for the next level of life, on both an athletic level and an academic level. 

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    Rohit KhannaFeb 15, 2024 at 7:14 pm

    Great article. NIL has totally transformed amateur sports. Had no idea the collectives contributed the bulk of funds at schools like Pitt. I am all for NIL deals. The student athletes deserve to share in the massive profits schools make from their efforts. I do think at some point “salary caps” may need to go in place to keep the playing field even. Looking forward to your next article.

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