While some college coaches are lamenting the impact of Name, Image and Likeness rules — combined with the NCAA Transfer Portal — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim believes NIL is good for college basketball because it keeps some players in school longer than they would have been otherwise.
Cases in point: North Carolina and Miami, Syracuse’s Atlantic Coast Conference rivals.
“By the NIL, guys at Carolina, guys at Miami, guys at these schools are coming back because they’re making more money than they make in the G league so it wasn’t meant to do that but college teams this year, several , are going to be a lot stronger than they would have been because of NIL,” Boeheim, 77, told me at the NBA Draft Combine last week in Chicago.
Boeheim’s comments came at the same time that Alabama football coach Nick Saban specifically called out one of his SEC rivals — Texas A&M — by saying they “bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness.”
Saban said Alabama players made $3 million “doing it the right way” last year and that only 25 players were able to leverage NIL opportunities. After he was called out by Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, Saban tried to walk back his comments by admitting he was wrong to “single out” Texas A&M and also Jackson State.
Boeheim did not call out his ACC rivals, but pointed out that they benefited from NIL because they were able to bring players back who might otherwise have left.
After losing in the national championship game last month in Kansas, North Carolina will return four starters in Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, Caleb Love and RJ Davis.
Bacot, the 6-foot-10 big man who averaged 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 62.8 percent from the field, has deals with Town & Country and Jimmy’s Famous Seafood out of Maryland.
Bacot was considered a borderline NBA Draft pick despite his key role in leading the Tar Heels to the NCAA championship game. He announced last month that he would return for his senior season, and said in a podcast interview with the Field of 68 that NIL money helped influence his decision.
“It would have been closed for sure,” Bacot said. “This decision was closed but it probably would have been closer. I probably would have landed a little more towards leaving.”
Though no exact figures on his NIL income are available, experts believe Bacot can earn at least in the mid six-figures. That is much more money than he would have earned in the NBA G League, where the maximum salary is $37,000. The minimum salary in the NBA starts from $925,000.
“All those guys at Carolina, all the guys at Miami, they’re all making more money,” Boeheim said, adding “a lot more.”
“I think it’s inadvertently helping college basketball be stronger,” he added. “It’s good for college basketball. The G League will probably have to respond and raise the salaries.”
At Miami, Nijel Pack, who recently transferred from Kansas State, reportedly signed an NIL deal worth $800,000 over two years plus a car. That led current Miami guard Isaiah Wong to threaten a transfer unless he was compensated similarly. He ultimately ended up staying at the ACC school.
“The Transfer Portal really exacerbates it because a kid sees, ‘Hey, I can go get money,’” Boeheim said.
Boeheim also mentioned St. Bonaventure, which saw several key players transfer out in Kyle Lofton (Florida), Jaren Holmes (Iowa State), Osun Osunniyi (Iowa State) and Dominick Welch (Alabama).
“Bonaventure lost those four guys. what kind of [NIL] deals did they get?” Boeheim asked rhetorically.
He said the NIL rules will likely benefit bigger schools like North Carolina, Miami and others while hurting smaller schools like St. Bonaventure, which would have had a top team had all the players stayed.
“Bonaventure would be a Top-15 team next year, easy,” Boeheim said.
During this offseason, some of the top transfers have featured Kendric Davis (SMU to Memphis), Baylor Scheierman (South Dakota State to Creighton), AJ Green (Northern Iowa to Duke or Iowa State), Fardaws Aimaq (Utah Valley to Texas Tech) and KJ Williams (Murray State to LSU).
“It kills the smaller schools,” Boeheim said. “You develop a really good player and now he leaves.”
He added: “It helps some schools, but it hurts smaller schools who are losing their players to bigger schools to make more money. The whole thing, it’s tricky, it’s really tricky.”
Asked if he felt Syracuse had lost anyone due to NIL, he said he didn’t think so.
“I haven’t, not yet,” Boeheim said. “I think you could. I think small schools will [lose players]but I think bigger schools will, too.”