When the NCAA began allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL), many observers decried it as the end of college sports as we know it. While it may still be too early to make that call, according to a recent article in The Athletic, it appears NILs are actually encouraging some college basketball players to stay in school longer.
Those players – primarily those with “near-NBA” talent and skill levels – now seem to be staying in school rather than jumping to the NBA at the earliest opportunity. The availability of NILs is the big reason, but other factors are at play, too.
While a college basketball player may declare for the NBA draft, it doesn’t always mean he’s a lock to earn a roster spot, or even get drafted. While bad advice, bad judgment, or bad timing might affect when a college player leaves school with eligibility remaining, a bad outcome might leave that player on the outside of the league looking in.
Once a basketball player leaves college, his options are the NBA, the developmental G League, or other minor league circuits. Outside of the NBA, none of the other leagues are very lucrative. But thanks to NILs, a player can stay in college and theoretically earn the same or greater amount of money than he would in a minor league circuit. And don’t forget, a college basketball scholarship also receives free room and board, which, when combined with a player’s NIL earnings, makes staying in school a wiser financial choice. Plus, staying in college can also leave more time for…
With the allure of NBA money, many players have jumped into the draft before they had a full set of NBA skills. Whether it was a March Madness hero cashing in while he was in demand or simply a player leaving college to make a living, the lure of a salary and endorsement income has often pushed players toward a level they weren’t developmentally ready for.
But now that NIL deals can provide an income to college athletes; basketball players are staying in school longer to enhance their athletic development. In fact, at the highest levels, some players can earn more via NILs in college than they would in a developmental league. For players who may not have a complete, NBA-ready game, staying in school provides them more time to develop in those areas and more opportunities to demonstrate their potential to pro scouts.
In addition, when the NBA lowers its minimum draft back to 18, fewer so-called one-and-done players will take up college roster spots. And that will open up more scholarships, playing time, and development opportunities for other players. With some form of NIL income, that extra playing time will allow more time to raise their profile for a pro career.
Now that college basketball players can earn an income and continue their development while on scholarship without turning pro; more players will stick around to earn their college degrees. For those who may not have all the skills needed to go pro, earning a degree while getting paid to develop in college is a no-brainer. Will every college basketball player stick around and earn his degree in the age of NILs? Probably not, but the opportunity to earn a degree as a backup plan should a pro career not pan out will keep more college basketball players in school for the duration of their eligibility.
Traditionalists think NILs will professionalize college athletics and ruin their favorite sports. But, for college basketball players, NILs are creating a pathway to stay in school, enhance their games, and still get a degree.