The other day UNC’s Bubba Cunningham spoke about his concerns about NIL changes and now it’s time for his counterpart at Duke, AD Kevin White, to say his piece.
White talks here about how it could affect Olympic sports and other unintended consequences including how NIL could affect recruiting and women’s sports.
And he’s probably right.
There are multiple issues that will have to be sorted out including the fact that only football and men’s basketball and to a lesser extent women’s basketball can generate enough market interest for the players to realize much profit from their NIL rights.
Individual athletes might be able to do okay in some sports. For instance a college athlete who competes in the Olympics and does well could make a lot of money. Think swimming and track and field for instance. Golfers might do well because golf has a lucrative audience.
In general though there is going to be an enormous gap between someone like say Zion Williamson and Mike Buckmire, much less Zion Williamson and Mike Swirbalus, who plays lacrosse for Duke.
Buckmire might get some prospects but it’s hard to imagine Swirbalus would get much. And what could Duke softball pitcher Angie Biele hope for? Or fencer Ashley Lo?
Which leads to an interesting intersection: the free market and Title IX college athletics.
We have no idea how any of this lines up legally but lawsuits are all but guaranteed. What happens then? How do the courts deal with inequities and NIL?
Because fair or not, there is no doubt that the market, broadly speaking, favors men’s sports. More people follow men’s basketball than women’s. The WNBA could not exist without the NBA.
There is no equivalent to football which is still the king of televised sports. Baseball is in decline but softball is not even on the radar. The PGA significantly outdraws the LPGA.
It’s not universal - women’s soccer is popular in the US due to the striking success of the national team but globally it’s not close to men’s. Women’s gymnastics probably outdraws men’s and tennis is a sport of individual stars.
In general though, and this is even more true in college sports, for whatever reason, fair or not, male athletes are more popular and are going to get the majority of NIL income. Is it possible to resolve that?
The more basic reality though is this: the more college sports become professional the more critical profit will become and sports that don’t turn a profit will eventually be dropped.
We don't say any of this with happiness or satisfaction but that’s just the reality of market based sports and that’s where college sports are heading.