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No, Boise State isn't banning freshmen from NIL. But.....

Plus, how should revenue sharing actually happen in college sports?

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

On Wednesday afternoon, Boise State head football coach Spencer Danielson invited a social media pile-on by insinuating that freshmen wouldn’t be able to earn any NIL money.

Ron Counts, the program’s beat writer for the Idaho Statesman, would later delete the tweet. A Boise State athletic department staffer clarified to me on Thursday night that Danielson wasn’t actually saying that freshman can’t participate in NIL, only that Boise State’s main collective wasn’t going to drop major deals on freshmen.

That’s an important distinction, because it would be illegal for a coach (or athletic department) to wholesale restrict freshmen from participating in NIL. A collective can decide who they want to pay for whatever reason they want…but if I want to pay a Boise State freshman linebacker to promote Extra Points, and I’m willing to file all the right paperwork with a compliance department, there’s nobody with a Boise State email address who could stop me. If the program tried to punish an athlete for doing that, they would be sued, and they’d lose.

Setting aside the uh, problematic optics of how this point was made, it’s not uncommon, and probably smart business, for schools similar to Boise State to not offer much in the way of guaranteed collective payments to true freshmen.

Boise State is one of the best programs outside the P4, and the school rarely signs a top 300ish HS prospect. Most of their high school recruits don’t even rate among the top 100 of their position. That doesn’t mean that they’re bad players…almost all high school recruits signed in the last three classes were three-star athletes with multiple offers…but it does mean that they aren’t can’t miss superstars.

A recruit with an 83Hey,-86 rating might grow into an all-conference performer and future NFL draft pick. They also might end up on a D-II roster in three years. The range of possibilities is huge.

A school like Boise is not going to have a 12 million payroll to work with for their roster. Schools need to decide how much money they want to pay high school recruits, how much they want to pay current players (ideally to keep them from transferring elsewhere), and how much they want to pay potential transfers.

The typical plan for a program like a Boise is to spend more of their limited resources on their own established players, and then try to fill holes in the roster via transfers. Nobody is getting five-star high school QBs for free, but variations of this system are common even among power programs. Throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at somebody who has never played a snap of FBS football is risky.

But even if the strategy Boise is using is perfectly defensible, it also speaks to the complications of writing and talking about NIL. If we all use the same term to describe “trading card group license money”, “sponsored Instagram story money” and “booster-driven fake salary money”, athletes, parents, agents and coaches are going to get confused. And in that confusion, there’s risk of people getting hurt, or at least, making poor decisions.

So no, the first-year head coach isn’t banning NIL for his first-year athletes. But the fact that a reasonable person could think that he was speaks to why this industry and process needs to be communicated better.

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If we have revenue sharing in college sports…how much should the players get?

Yahoo! has been at the forefront of reporting on the potential settlement talks for House. As a result of a settlement, it is likely that the NCAA and major conferences will pay some sort of (big) penalty, potentially make changes to scholarship and roster limits…and also agree to some form of revenue sharing.

But House is mum about athlete employee classification. There’s also no expectation or current pathway for direct collective bargaining with athletes, no union or broad-based athlete trade organization to bargain with, or any existing structure similar to how revenue sharing is hammered out in the pros.

Yahoo! has reported that the spitball figures floating around settlement conversations are in the ~20% of revenue neighborhood. But what should the number be?

NCPA director Ramogi Huma is quoted in the story as saying:

“Fifty percent,” he said. “Look at pro models. Players get about 50%. Anything less than what’s fair will continue to be problematic. The numbers matter.”

Ramogi Huma, NCPA, as quoted in Yahoo!

I’ve heard similar arguments from other sports economists and fans, and I don’t completely disagree. But there are two critical questions that need to be addressed before athletes can hope to get that kind of revenue sharing provision.

First, what counts as revenue, and what counts as revenue distribution? As Dellenger notes in the story, many current administrators believe they’re already spending well over $100,000 per athlete, when you combine spending on scholarships, academic support, nutrition, travel, and other benefits. How much of those expenses can (or should) be considered as “shared revenue?”

Will there be a third party to audit the financials that universities are self-reporting to verify that those FRS revenues and expenses are accurate? These are useful tools, but if I, uh, would not recommend anybody rely on them to settle billion-dollar litigation without quadruple-checking that math.

I assume that when the dust settles, schools will be able to count some portion of support spending as shared revenue, but not all of it. Which means somebody needs to decide how much of the shared revenue should be cash, and which athletes should be entitled to it. Who makes that call?

All the athlete advocates quoted in the story allude to this, but this is my answer to the “what do athletes deserve” question…it depends entirely on what the athletes want.

Maybe athletes could theoretically decide that they’d be okay riding in buses rather than flying if it meant they got more cash. Maybe they’d rather take less money in exchange for more coaches, more academic support staff, or better equipment. Rather than being decided by university presidents, attorneys or other third parties…I deeply believe that the only folks who should really get to make this decision are the athletes.

But that doesn’t happen if the athletes aren’t organized. I know he’s been critiqued for this quote elsewhere, but I actually think Athletes.org’s Jim Cavale is right about this:

They have not united as a group,” Cavale said. “To unite as a group takes some initiative and action. You need passion and that has to come from a place of pain. College athletes aren’t feeling pain right now. They are free agents every year and can get $600,000 for playing DB by moving from one school to another and get an apartment and a car.”

I am certainly not advocating for athletes to feel pain. But I am advocating for organization, and organizing athletes is going to be tough sledding under the absolute best of circumstances. The status quo is probably worse for coaches and ADs than it is for the typical power conference football or basketball player…so the athlete isn’t going to be quite as motivated to push for change as the athletic director.

I legitimately don’t know what I’d say athletes deserve from revenue sharing. But I know enough to know that at the end of the day, they’ll get what they can demand from organizing. And right now, that isn’t happening yet.

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Here are some other things I wrote recently that you might have missed:

I’ve got more original reporting to share with you all next week, along with some big updates to Athletic Director Simulator 4000, and much more.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you on the internet.


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