Great Players are demanding 7 figures in College Sports

kickballpro

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In early March, The Athletic reported that a five-star 2023 recruit signed an $8 million NIL deal with a school’s donor collective. While that remains by far the highest known deal to date, other top recruits are reaping the benefits of a rapidly soaring arms race.

The Athletic reviewed three recruits’ recently signed NIL contracts, each with a different school-specific collective. The Athletic agreed to preserve the anonymity of all parties in order to get a better sense of the current market rates for top recruits. A four-star receiver landed a deal that will pay him more than $1 million over the next four years in exchange for his exclusive NIL rights. A defensive lineman ranked among the top 10 at his position received a three-year deal worth $1 million. And a three-star defensive lineman signed for $500,000 over four years. The latter two are non-exclusive.

“(NIL) creates a situation where you can basically buy players,” Alabama coach Nick Saban recently told the Associated Press. “You can do it in recruiting. I mean, if that’s what we want college football to be, I don’t know.”

Corey Staniscia, who helped author the state of Florida’s NIL law last year and now works for Dreamfield Sports, agreed. “You have adults with a lot of money who just want to win championships and buy athletes,” he said.

All of the deals The Athletic reviewed stipulate that they are not an inducement to attend a specific school, but it’s no secret which collectives support which college teams. And given the Supreme Court’s 9-0 decision in last year’s NCAA vs. Alston antitrust case, experts consider the NCAA unlikely to take aggressive action limiting athletes’ compensation.

“This is the hierarchy,” said attorney Mike Caspino, who has represented dozens of recruits in their dealings with collectives and executed the contracts The Athletic reviewed. “Five-star quarterbacks: They’re getting $2 million a year. The next-most sought after players are D-linemen, edge rushers; they’re getting seven figures. The next is a stud offensive lineman with quick feet — they’re in the high six figures. Everyone else is a hodgepodge, but in the six-figure range.”

Many coaches and administrators are experiencing sticker shock over an above-table market that sprouted up seemingly overnight and is now having a profound effect on where certain recruits are committing. Others have resigned themselves to NIL bidding wars becoming the new normal.

“I think it’s not going to be long until every signee at a Power 5 school is on some form of NIL — and that may be this coming year,” said Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin.

Many states’ NIL laws adopted last summer prohibit schools from directly brokering deals. That opened the door for third-party collectives — organizations that pool fan and booster donations in order to compensate a specific school’s athletes. Boosters at a small handful of programs — Texas A&M, Texas, Tennessee, Oregon and Miami chief among them — mobilized the quickest when the NCAA allowed NIL compensation for the first time last July. But they are far outnumbered by exasperated coaches and administrators who fear their programs getting left behind. Many have lost recruits simply because another school’s collective offered an NIL package it couldn’t match.

“We lost a kid (on signing day) over that. That hurt,” a Power 5 head coach told The Athletic. “Two hours before, the mom is telling me he’s coming here. And then she said, ‘Coach, how can we turn down $300,000?’ You can’t. Take it, I get it.”

In recent weeks, new collectives have been announced everywhere from Ohio State and Penn State to Kansas State and FIU.

“It’s a conversation that is absolutely being had, collective by collective, across the country right now. Do we need to go in this direction to compete?” said sports attorney Darren Heitner, who advises Florida’s Gator Collective. “A benchmark has been set, and if you’re a talented player, and if you’re willing to take the risk, then you probably think you’re worth that much or more.”

On April 8, offensive lineman Josh Conerly Jr., from Seattle, the last remaining unsigned five-star in the class of 2022, spurned presumed favorite USC, which does not have a collective, in favor of Oregon, which does. It’s called Division Street, and Ducks mega-booster Phil Knight is heavily involved.

“(Recruiting) doesn’t even resemble what we used to do before NIL,” USC coach Lincoln Riley told reporters the day after losing Conerly. “In every sense of the word, it’s different. The reality is, it’s made what’s gone on at certain places for a long time … it’s going to put it out in the open. So maybe (there are) some positives there.”

Elsewhere, Ohio State has long been considered the favorite for five-star 2023 receiver Carnell Tate from IMG Academy in Florida, but two weekends ago he visited Tennessee, and late last week, On3 revised its prediction for Tate to Tennessee. The co-president of Spyre Sports, a for-profit collective associated with Tennessee, told The Athletic in February, “We’re prepared to invest a substantial amount of resources into the 2023 recruiting class.” A co-founder of The Foundation, Ohio State’s recently announced non-profit NIL fund, recently said on a Bucknuts podcast, “We can’t make an official deal with a recruit.”

But not everybody’s jumping on board the collective movement. Many prominent football schools have explicitly warned their donors against getting involved in recruiting — which is still technically against the rules. USC does not have a collective. A Notre Dame version launched Monday but is being marketed as a charity endeavor. The co-founder of a Michigan NIL partner said of paying recruits: “Michigan’s not doing that.”

“I think there are some places that have weaponized NIL and are using it in recruiting,” said UCLA coach Chip Kelly. “That’s not going to happen here, so we don’t even discuss it.

Heitner fears some of the more brazen deals being made for recruits may lead to future repercussions for the players. “The athlete is the one with the risk,” he said. “Don’t put it past the NCAA to render an athlete ineligible after the fact.”

Caspino, the attorney that helped author dozens of these recruit-collective contracts, disagrees that they violate NCAA rules.

“What blows everybody away by my contracts is there is no mention of the school and there is no commitment that he has to go there and play football,” he said. “I welcome the NCAA looking at my contracts.”

Beyond the legality, there’s also the question of whether throwing seven-figure deals at unproven high school players or inexperienced portal transfers is a sensible investment. Saban called it an “unsustainable model.” Riley predicted an eventual “market correction.”

“You’re really guessing that this 18-year-old guy who has proven zero is worth a million dollars from somebody, somehow, however that money is getting there,” said the Power 5 head coach. “Like … what the **** are we talking about? Why even want to be associated with this? We’re ruining kids.”

The 2023 class could turn out to be a fascinating case study. Will the players who cashed in be less likely to transfer because they risk blowing up their deal — or perhaps more likely because they picked a school solely for financial reasons? If a lot of the top recruits become busts, will donors be less likely to pitch in going forward? Or will 2024 kids get even richer as more schools’ collectives become better funded?

“A lot of people tell me hey, don’t worry, this isn’t here to stay, these numbers you’re seeing out there, people can’t keep that up. I disagree,” said Kiffin. “(Schools) always find a way to keep up. They find money.”

The Athletic’s David Ubben and Max Olson contributed reporting

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jdubb66

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So much for parody in college basketball...
Well, how hungry are these guys going to be? Are they going to work as hard as the guys getting crap? The Pandora's box works in mysterious ways. for all they guys that actually earn that money, how many will fall back down to a lower division? We'll have to wait and see.
 

kickballpro

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Its really creating a new Division in College Sports.

Division 1 was where athletes received "Full Rides"

Division 2 was Partial Scholarships shared amongst athletes.

Division 3 was no Athletic Scholarships.

Now we have Division 1 + NIL Deals
 

LTMiner61

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With every bull market there's a bear waiting around the corner. It's especially true with 18 to 21-year old athletes. I'm happy the players are taking advantage of the market, but there will be a correction and it won't be pretty. We've only just begun putting light on what has remained in the dark for years.

GO MINERS!
 
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Lil_Train

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With every bull market there's a bear waiting around the corner. It's especially true with 18 to 21-year old athletes. I happy the players are taking advantage of the market, but there will be a correction and it won't be pretty. We've only just begun putting light on what has remained in the dark for years.

GO MINERS!
It used to be you only had to pay off the AAU coaches. Now you have to pay all the other "handlers" as well. But now it is completely legal through NIL collectives. 😉
 
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FiliUTEP

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It used to be you only had to pay off the AAU coaches. Now you have to pay all the other "handlers" as well. But now it is completely legal through NIL collectives. 😉
Well didn't you hear Sumlins coach?? He actually said " I hope he comes back and help those that helped him get to where he is." That's pretty sad that a 17 year is responsible to take so many out of the hood. Sumlin doesn't owe anyone anything he is the one with the skills. I dont think the coach should've said that. He should just be happy and if Sumlin wants to help and give back then that's on him.
 

axingfools1

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Well didn't you hear Sumlins coach?? He actually said " I hope he comes back and help those that helped him get to where he is." That's pretty sad that a 17 year is responsible to take so many out of the hood. Sumlin doesn't owe anyone anything he is the one with the skills. I dont think the coach should've said that. He should just be happy and if Sumlin wants to help and give back then that's on him.
Well said Fili
 

MinerManiac

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Well didn't you hear Sumlins coach?? He actually said " I hope he comes back and help those that helped him get to where he is." That's pretty sad that a 17 year is responsible to take so many out of the hood. Sumlin doesn't owe anyone anything he is the one with the skills. I dont think the coach should've said that. He should just be happy and if Sumlin wants to help and give back then that's on him.
I've given some crap in the past, Fili, but I have to say that you nailed it here. Good job.
 

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