Jim Harbaugh: Big Ten should directly sign players to NIL deals

The implementation of name, image and licensing rights deals across the college football landscape has been somewhat chaotic and criticized by some figures within the sport. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has a suggestion that might cut down on some of that chaos.

Harbaugh said Tuesday at his Big Ten media day press conference that he believes the Big Ten should allow players to directly share in conference revenues by directly signing players to NIL deals.

“They use their name, image and likeness on the TV broadcasts,” Harbaugh said, via Aaron McMann of MLive. “They’re the ones signing the mega-TV deals. And a new one’s coming in 2024. Why can’t that be an NIL deal right from the Big Ten? Because that’s who’s negotiating the TV deals, and that’s where the big money is.”

Harbaugh’s suggestion is quite bold, as he is essentially saying the Big Ten should cut out the middle man and pay the players itself. There is certainly an argument to be made that it’s the safest, most controlled way of making sure players profit without things getting too messy.

On the other hand, some schools might have reservations about such a plan depending on how it would be implemented. Larger schools like Michigan which are featured on national television more often would likely want a bigger slice of the pie going to their players. Smaller, less successful schools would probably argue that such an arrangement might only serve to widen the gap between themselves and the conference’s elite teams.

Harbaugh has always been a bit more of a purist than some others when it comes to NIL discussions. This isn’t a bad idea on his part, but there would be lots of hurdles to clear before it could become a reality.

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