Endorsements changed college sports. Is it for the better?

The 360 ​​gives you multiple perspectives on the headlines and debates of the day.

What’s happening

About a year ago, the NCAA opened the door to collegiate athletes for the first time to monetize their talents, turning on its head the amateur athletics model that had been a fundamental tenet of collegiate sports for generations.

Last June, the NCAA issued a rule change that allowed athletes to sign endorsement contracts using their name, likeness and likeness (NIL). Since then, star players — particularly in big-money sports like football and basketball — have struck massive deals to make serious money while maintaining their college-level eligibility to play. An unnamed football recruit worth more than $8 million in March.

Universities are still prohibited from paying their players directly. Also, so-called pay-for-play agreements, where the promise of sponsorship money is used to recruit an athlete to a particular school, are not allowed.

The introduction of NIL has led to a series of dramatic changes as athletes, schools and governing bodies adapt to the new collegiate athletic landscape. One of the most significant is the emergence of collectives, collaborative groups of wealthy boosters and corporations working together to connect players with support opportunities.

Often founded by prominent alumni or influential donors, collectives aim to bolster a school’s athletic fortunes without violating the rules on direct payments from universities themselves. Ties to some of the biggest collegiate sports teams in the United States have surfaced over the past year, and an industry expert has predicted each school in a major conference by the end of the year.

Why is there a debate

There is no doubt that NIL has radically changed the world of college sports. For a large number of commenters, these changes have created a fairer and more honest environment that has allowed athletes to receive a share of the billions of dollars in revenue their talents generate. Yet few would argue that the current system, often compared to the Wild West, is ideal. Many have called on the NCAA to establish clearer guidelines about what is and isn’t allowed — and to be more proactive in enforcing rules.

But others have lamented the new landscape, particularly the growing influence of collectives. Alabama head coach Nick Saban, one of the most successful coaches in college football history, “where you can basically buy players.” Clemson’s NCAA football coach Dabo Swinney has made collegiate sport “an absolute mess and a train wreck.” There are also concerns that the introduction of six- and seven-figure contracts for athletes will allow the best-funded schools to dominate the competition even more than they already do.

Others view NIL as a short-term, messy stopgap that will only temporarily delay an even more dramatic shift down the road. For some, this could mean universities finally have the ability to pay players directly. It could also mean fragmentation, seeing the biggest schools create their own competitive leagues with their own rules about eligibility and amateurishness.

What’s next

The NCAA board recently intended to take action against some of the activities of collectives that may violate pay-for-play rules. However, it remains to be seen whether the organization has the desire or the means to enforce these rules in a way that meaningfully changes the way schools and their supporters approach NIL.


NIL has finally made it possible for athletes to benefit from the tremendous business they support

“The entire economic structure of college sports is built around alumni using their money to fund successful sports teams on campus. … Now, however, that money can go directly to talent and not new armchair-back seats on the east side upper deck or new bathrooms in the concourse.” — David Ubben,

The current chaotic situation is unsustainable

“While I’m all for player empowerment, it’s worth asking the question: Is the current NIL model state-by-state, school-by-school, conference-by-conference sustainable over the long term? Almost nobody in collegiate athletics believes that what is happening right now is viable for the credibility of collegiate athletics in the future. But where are the answers? Nobody seems to have them.” – Matt Norlander,

With all the problems with NIL, there is no turning back

“The NCAA had the ability to regulate NIL deals and incentives to play for certain programs. It covered its ears and ignored the ticking, counting down to a day that was coming sooner and earlier. Now – boom – it’s arrived, and it’s too late. They’ll try, but there’s no way to put the confetti back in the cannon.” — Shalise Manza Young,

College sports will survive just fine regardless of what the players earn

“We now have NIL and it’s not going away. Yet the games are being played, billions of dollars are being generated and no fan has turned away. In fact, the games seem to be more popular than ever. … Compensating athletes isn’t a problem, it’s just business.” — Jay Bilas,

NIL is a messy alternative to simply paying college athletes like pros

“I have no problem with college athletes getting their fair share. This is a multi-billion dollar business and they play a key role in making it so popular. But funding their work through collectives and boosters without regulation is a flawed system. … However, the answer has always been ahead of the NCAA. Make the athletes employees.” — Dan Wolken,

NIL could spell the end of college sports as we know it

“The NIL rule means the rich get richer – because they can offer more money, not only can they attract more blue-chip recruits, but they can also steal players from other schools. …let the bidding begin. Agency has arrived in collegiate sports, and the line between professional sports and collegiate sports is almost erasing.” – Doug Robinson,

Fears that NIL could shut down collegiate sports are completely overblown

“One of the most common criticisms of the current NIL landscape is that it is ‘unsustainable’. … Why isn’t it sustainable? Are we to assume that collegiate athletics will collapse as a going concern because athletes are now being paid by outside groups? That’s a ridiculous claim.” — Mike DeCourcy,

NIL poses a serious threat to the competitive balance in college sports

“There have been covert incentives for decades. … It’s also true that current rules and an NCAA fearful of litigation have in some cases allowed NIL to get deep-pocketed boosters to pay established stars and recruits alike — which is another rift between varsity sports looms and have-nots.” — Johnny McGonigal and Craig Meyer,

NIL is no more free running than the system before it

“Each of the arguments decrying the new state of collegiate sports would move me if someone who puts them forward could point to the days before rampant cheating existed. When was the golden era of recruitment for these coaches? Point me to a year where there was a level playing field. A year into its existence, NIL is a lawless and ungoverned market, yes, but it has replaced a lawless and ungoverned market.” —Kevin Clark,

Pay-for-play seriously harms college sports

“The problem in sport is baiting the best players with money, which affects the competitive balance. That’s why everyone wants to do it. They can quickly become the best team money can buy. And while that’s exactly how pro sports work, some die-hard old buggers (like me) still think this is bad for collegiate sports.” — Mitch Albom,

Athletes in low-profile sports could be the biggest losers in the NIL system

“The bigger concern among sporting directors is what will happen to their own budgets if all the millions they traditionally receive from donors are diverted to NIL co-ops? Oddly enough, advocates of women’s sport have not made the connection: their sport will suffer from funding cuts and possibly, likely, elimination.” — Mark Zeigler,

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; Photos: Getty Images

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