NIL offers only put a few dollars in the pockets of most athletes
Texas offensive lineman Christian Jones remembers walking up to Bijan Robinson not long ago and asking for a lift, thinking it was the least the All running back -American could do for one of the big guys doing all the blocking.
“He said there was a height limit,” Jones said with a smile.
Turns out, there’s not a lot of room in a Lamborghini for a 6-foot-6, 328-pound teammate.
“The suspension would probably be messed up,” Jones added.
Thanks to a bold new era of name, image and likeness compensation deals in college sports, many star players are strolling around campus in a whimsical ride. But for every NIL millionaire like Robinson, there are thousands of athletes who barely made it big.
“Of course you have the haves and the have-nots,” said Jake Brandon, who founded a NIL collective at BYU to help put extra money in the pockets of Cougar athletes. “We’ve given thousands and thousands of dollars to athletes, but we haven’t given millions and millions of dollars to athletes.”
According to platform NIL INFLCR, the average transaction involving a college football player is $3,396, while a similar platform called Athliance puts it at $3,391. But those numbers are skewed by exceptionally large deals signed by elites like Robinson and CJ Stroud of Ohio State; the median transaction through the INFLCR platform is only $53.
That’s barely enough for a tank of gas in Robinson’s flashy orange Lamborghini.
Jones can at least count himself among those who take better than that. In Texas, the group Horns With Heart NIL has pledged to pay each scholarship offensive lineman $50,000 a year for work on behalf of charities. It’s not millions, but it’s still a lot compared to most.
“The most common request I get from athletes is, ‘Can you help me get a ZERO offer for groceries this month?’ Or, ‘I’ve got a flat tire in my sidewall and I don’t have the money to cover it. Can you help me get a NIL contract?'” Brandon remembers telling a local company about the Utah. “So the majority of people in college football, if you look at the broad spectrum, don’t walk away with six-figure NIL contracts. They’re more likely to walk away with a couple thousand extra dollars.
They’re more like the deals found on the Opendorse platform, where Tennessee fans can get a recorded shoutout from linebacker Tyler Baron for as little as $10 or an autograph for $25. Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez will write a targeted social media post starting at $125, while Memphis defensive back Quindell Johnson is open to custom requests.
Opendorse offers are take-it-or-leave-it opportunities, allowing athletes to decide what makes sense to them.
“For me, it was nothing more than fun,” said Martinez, the prolific former Nebraska quarterback who will start for the Wildcats this season. “I never wanted it to stress me out.”
The added stress is why some players, such as Iowa’s Riley Moss, have forgone NIL offers altogether.
The Big Ten’s top defensive back last season, Moss declined to participate in a player-run collective called the Iowa City NIL Club so he could focus on this season and hopefully embark on a career. far more lucrative in the NFL.
Other athletes only do NIL activities in the summer when their time is less stretched. And in many cases, the few hundred dollars they receive can supplement an often modest stipend they receive from their schools.
“You know, after practices you might have done extra practice or you might have done certain things, but now they might say you have to go to this event,” said the Virginia defensive tackle- Western Dante Stills. “For example, I went to several events where I signed autographs, took pictures. Stuff like that. Just interacting with the fans.
Stills didn’t say how much he earned on NIL trades, but he admitted the extra cash makes everyday life easier.
“Obviously my first three years, you know, as a college athlete, it’s tough,” Stills said, “especially with, like, the money, the stipend you get. It doesn’t make you doesn’t last long. So just adding this NIL, I’m very thankful and thankful for it, and I know a lot of people are. It helps you and your family.
AP sportswriters Schuyler Dixon, Stephen Hawkins, Erica Hunzinger and Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.
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This story was originally published August 31, 2022 7:59 a.m.