The NIL era is offering new avenues of exploitation

Estimated read time 4 min read


Bryce Young

Bryce Young
Photo: AP

Name, image, and likeness deals were appropriately celebrated after the NCAA announced it was finally allowing the people making them billions of dollars to also get paid. However insane that sounds, NIL deals are a large step from what was the norm. Unfortunately, the gluttons at the table won’t even give up the crumbs that fall from the edges of their mouths, and are content sending kids out to scrounge up what they can.

Some of the partnerships are perfectly harmless with local companies sponsoring an athlete because his name is ideal for an HVAC spokesman. Bryce Young deserves the money he’s making from NIL deals, and he’s doing so well that Alabama is getting in on the action. With so much money to be made legitimately, the frenzy has attracted sharks.

A court ruling last year made it possible for agencies to offer players cash upfront in exchange for a percentage of future earnings. The speculative investment strategy has been around for a while, according to the CBS Sports article. Young golfers do it, and it’s been happening in boxing for decades.

Now, Big League Advantage (BLA) is approaching college athletes — who don’t have a name quirky enough, a skill set gaudy enough, or a position visible enough to earn a truckload of NIL money — cash upfront for a piece on the backend. While the article stated BLA has yet to turn a profit, all it has to do is hit on a couple of prospects to flip that around. The company’s most high-profile client, Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., inked a 14-year, $310 million deal a year ago, and BLA got anywhere from 1 to 15 percent (the window of its going rate) of that deal.

My issue isn’t the risk of investing in teenagers, or how often the student-athlete will be the sole beneficiary of this deal. What I take umbrage with is these kids shouldn’t have to choose between cash-in-hand for a percentage of their future earnings, or nothing. If Nolan Smith Jr., Georgia’s preseason All-SEC linebacker and BLA client, was on UGA’s books and still wanted to give up points on what could be a long, lucrative NFL career, have at it.

That said, what demographic of college football players are most likely to be in need of some JG Wentworth 877-Cash-Now shit? Hint: It’s the sports’ most prevalent demo.

The fact that speculative investing has been around in boxing for eons should set alarm bells blaring. The BLA might not be Don King bilking Mike Tyson out of generational wealth, but potentially taking millions out of the pockets of athletes because they’re not marketable enough for a NIL deal and can’t afford to wait until an NFL payday is the kind of scenario made avoidable by the NCAA paying its workforce.

The Crimson Tide adopts the Green Wave

Speaking of outcomes that should be prevented, how is Alabama allowed to sell NIL gear at Bryant-Denny Stadium? The university partnered with Fanatics to create the Authentic, a new shop in the stadium that will offer licensed team apparel as well as NIL merch.

My guess is the biggest draw of the retail outlet won’t be an autographed football but rather the jerseys complete with the names on the back, which still aren’t allowed to be sold directly by schools over, of all issues, name and likeness hiccups.

The first thing Bama should’ve done once it decided to manufacture a bunch of nameless No. 9 jerseys is to stop, add Young on the back, and pay the Heisman winner a portion of the proceeds. The Tide’s NIL shop is sure to be replicated by countless schools and lauded as a way to directly support their student-athletes.

And as altruistic as these colleges make it seem, do you think they’re going to stop taking a cut of sales because of a name on the back when their name is on the front? The NCAA is allowing all these rules and loopholes to expand because it knows it can’t tell student-athletes enough is enough when it’s never sheathed its greed.

These exceptions aren’t sufficient though, and they’re creating chaos as kids try to capitalize by any means necessary — which leads to borderline predatory tactics and ethical conundrums that will only stop (or at least marginally ease) when student-athletes are on the university payroll.


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