NIL has changed the NCAA math for the better

Bryce Young The University of Alabama via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday I decided to take in some college football games. There were a couple of big games in the SEC. Kentucky vs Ole Miss which my alma mater (Kentucky) unfortunately lost. That game was followed by Alabama vs Arkansas. Alabama of course is the perennial power led by last year’s Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young. During the game Young scrambled out of the pocket under pressure and was tackled awkwardly which caused a shoulder injury that required him to leave the game. A shoulder injury would be unfortunate for any player but especially a quarterback that would have been a first-round pick had he been allowed to declare for the NFL draft. As I watched him walk back to the medics my main worry was that I just saw his NFL dreams shatter along with his shoulder. But there was one silver lining that immediately popped into my head. Bryce Young is already rich.

Getting a Heisman trophy winner back for a second year is a luxury because typically they declare for the NFL draft, but Bryce Young was what they call a “true sophomore” meaning he is not actually eligible for the NFL which requires prospects to be three years removed from college. So, he had to return to Alabama for his junior year. But unlike so many that came before him returning to college didn’t mean passing up millions of dollars.

A relatively new NCAA policy allows players to make money on their Name, image and likeness (NIL). Previously the NCAA barred players from being paid by their schools or accepting money from outside entities on the basis of their status as athletes. They still aren’t paid by the schools, but they are free to accept outside money. This opens the door for endorsements, commercials, and even shoe deals.

This arrangement makes a system that was one-sided a little fairer for the athletes. Thousands of NCAA athletes have made the college athletic system billions of dollars and not seen a dime of it. They STILL won’t have access to any of that money, but now they can at least cash in on their intrinsic value on the open market.

And cash in they are.

Bryce Young has already signed NIL deals worth hundreds of thousands and reportedly has an estimated value of $3.2 million. His counterpart at Texas signed a $1.4 million deal while he was at Ohio State and before he threw a single pass. Kentucky basketball’s Oscar Tshiebwe is set to earn about $2 million in NIL money which isn’t a bad come up for someone who grew up in the impoverished nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Can you imagine if the college stars of yesterday like Tim Tebow, Zion Williamson or Johnny Manziel had this kind of arrangement? I’m sure they have imagined it.

Ironically this system helps the schools too because in the past coming back to school as a projected pro was risky. To be clear it still is but that risk is reduced by a lot when you can make millions as a popular college athlete.

Everyone is not treated equally under NIL. Some players will make more than others. But that’s just life and it is no different at the next level. At minimum NIL offers college athletes a chance to eat what they kill which is not a chance they had before.

As for Bryce Young for what it’s worth the injury does not appear to be serious which is a good thing because no matter how much money he makes in college I’m sure he still has NFL dreams. However, unlike his predecessors he is not a freak injury away from falling short of a huge financial windfall.

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