Brown: The Good and Bad of NIL

By on May 22, 2022 0

When the NCAA passed the NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) interim legislation on June 30, 2021, did we really think college athletics wouldn’t become the Wild West?

Talk of million-dollar quarterbacks and high school love offers immediately spiked across the college landscape.

That being said, student-athletes deserved to be able to take advantage of their personality beyond the tremendous opportunities that a full athletic scholarship provides.

Ask former Iowa basketball player Greg Brunner, who once tallied the hours he spent in games, travel, workouts, the weight room, and off-season workouts during his career. He matched that against the dollars his purse provided. It was pennies on the dollar. He wasn’t complaining. He was just stating facts.

I tip my cap to Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon, one of those who worked hard to see NIL come to fruition. But in many cases, today’s world has turned NIL into a sordid game of outbidding an opponent for a player.

An example. Theo Akwuba, a 6-11 Louisiana center, is an Iowa player being sued in the transfer portal. He averaged 9.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and two blocked shots a season ago, and would have given the Hawkeyes some experienced depth in that position.

And Iowa seemed like a good fit for Akwuba, a program that had produced consensus Americans Luka Garza and Keegan Murray the previous two seasons and was coming off a 26-win season, including the Big Ten Tournament title.

Akwuba narrowed his picks to Iowa and Mississippi, an SEC program that was 13-19 last season and won four championship games. But the day before Akwuba made its decision public, Iowa already knew it had lost the bidding war. Akwuba chose the Rebels, making him one of eight newcomers to join the program in 2022-23. That doesn’t include assistant coach Brock Morris, who came from Louisiana.

Now, bringing in an assistant with a rookie is not a new phenomenon. When Lute Olson signed Kenny Arnold from Chicago Calumet in the late 1970s, his prep coach Johnie Butler joined the Iowa staff as well. And when Tom Davis kicked Ray Thompson out of Argo High School in Summit, Illinois, his coach Rick Moss landed in Iowa as a graduate assistant. Moss later became a full-time assistant.

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But trying to outbid schools for players in the public eye is something new. Schools like Iowa are now scrambling to build NIL collectives to keep pace with recruiting. And after sitting on the sidelines and watching it all spiral out of control, the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, decided something had to be done. Sorry, Charlie, the genie is already out of the bottle.

There is another side to the NIL story. A positive and beneficial side that deserves to be applauded.

Tyler Linderbaum, American center from Iowa and first NFL draft pick, sold sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring his image. He raised $30,000 and donated the money to Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City.

Punter Tory Taylor sold t-shirts that read “Punting is Winning”. He donated $11,000 to Count the Kicks, a nonprofit that helps babies.

Last week, Bohannon donated $26,000 to go toward pediatric cardiology at Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The money came from shoes Bohannon wore during a 2019 victory at Iowa State and the famous signature “To ISU: Thanks for the memz.” He raffled off these shoes for $10 a ticket.

There are many more examples, according to Iowa Magazine. When all-American babysitter Caitlin Clark signed an NIL deal with Hy-Vee, that company donated $1,000 to Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Forwards and twins Hawkeye Keegan and Kris Murray have donated money to the Pediatric Cancer Unit at Stead Family Children’s Hospital and Special Olympics Iowa from funds they received for their NIL contract with Zoarc Athletics, based in Dubuque.

Quarterback Spencer Petras and recent NFL draft pick Dane Belton also donated money to the hospital, through their NIL deal with Estela’s Fresh Mex restaurant; Garza, through an auction for his NFT (non-fungible token); former running back Tyler Goodson, through his sale of raffle tickets; and track and field athletes Gratt Reed and Peyton Haack from selling bottled water during tailgates before Iowa football games.

There are probably more examples of kindness that haven’t been mentioned here. In a NIL world that revolves around the Benjamins, it’s nice to see Hawkeye athletes open their hearts and give back to worthy causes.