7 min read

"This is not the day of NIL."

"This is not the day of NIL."

Say what you will about Deion Sanders and his coaching strategies at Colorado, but there is one thing everyone universally agrees on: Prime says exactly what is on his mind. When the Colorado head coach and former NFL superstar speaks, it's worth listening to because you are getting his true and authentic opinion.

So, when Prime turned into Professor Prime and did a Q&A with a bunch of students, it was really easy to sit and listen. He talked about a myriad of topics from his strategy managing freshmen on the roster to his NFL days. Along the way, he talked about the current state of college athletics. Like any coach in America will tell you right now, the conversation around NIL is what makes up the current state of college athletics.

“NIL is not really what you think it is. All of these kids are not getting NIL. These kids are getting collectives. Collectives, if we took an offering up in this classroom, we passed the bucket like the church and you put this collection plate, and you put your collective in and then we say ‘You know what, we’ve got 10 players up here, let’s divide that. That player right there should get $10, that player right there should get $20.’ That’s a collective.

NIL is name, image and likeness. Since I’ve got time today, I want you to tell me how many players in college that you’ve seen on commercials. I got time today, let’s go. How many?

This ain’t NIL. That’s all you’ve seen. All these college athletes, and you named five. This is not NIL. This is not the day of NIL. That’s what it is supposed to be, but it’s collectives. That’s where it went wrong, instead of staying right.

“I wish it was NIL so the kids could earn it. Because now, to earn, you gotta ball. For a CEO to invest in you – you think I have, say, a $100 million company, and I’m going to invest in a college kid that I don’t know nothing about? He could be a deer in headlights and get drunk after the game and now my company brand is on him? There’s no way. You kind of wait until those kids can prove to you that they can handle the light, they can handle the stage, they can handle the opportunity. Then you can afford to give them that. But we’re talking about collectives. I’m sick of everybody in the country talking about NIL – it’s not NIL.”

He's not wrong. NIL, frankly, doesn't exist in college sports right now - at least not at a scale that matters. Sure, players like Olivia Dunne, Caleb Williams, Caitlin Clark, Shedeur Sanders and a handful of others are commanding big payments for legitimate NIL deals, but the vast majority of players aren't getting NIL payouts.

NIL was supposed to be designed for the player who wanted to capitalize on their athlete status and start a podcast or a YouTube channel. NIL was supposed to allow the biggest names in their respective sports to cash in on endorsement deals. NIL was supposed to allow players to build their own brands, much how Deion Sanders built Prime throughout his career.

BuT JeFF! tHe KIdS sHouLD bE PaId fOr plAYinG BeCAuSe MIlLiOnS oF DoLlArS aRE maDE On tHEiR bACkS!

I agree with you. The athletes should be paid. The NCAA, the conferences, and the universities have cashed billions of dollars worth of checks while the athletes have received absolutely nothing as a result. The players should absolutely be paid.

But NIL isn't that...

NIL was designed to allow players to unlock their personal branding potential - to give them no caps on the supplemental income they can earn while playing college sports. NIL was not designed to give players a piece of the pie.

NIL isn't real, especially as Collectives have grown and taken over the space. Throughout the country, coaches and players and talking heads on media stations and dorks like me with a blog are talking about the chaos that NIL rules (or the lack thereof) has caused. But anytime someone speaks out and says, 'Actually NIL seems kinda bad' they are met with 'KIDS DESERVE THEIR CUT!' cheers.

To that, I say, let's give the kids their cut!

Schools don't fund NIL - you do, the fan.

Conferences don't fund NIL - you do, the fan.

The NCAA doesn't fund NIL - you do, the fan.

TV money doesn't fund NIL - you do, the fan.

NIL isn't giving athletes a piece of any pie. The schools, the conferences, and the NCAA are cashing bigger checks than they ever have. Players aren't getting any of that.

But you're hearing from coaches across the country how fans need to continue to fund NIL in order for their teams to get more wins.

"We had players that were here that are now gone and playing at another school that should be here playing right now — because NIL. We didn’t pay him; we didn’t pay him enough. ... We’ll be a Triple-A ballclub for somebody else. That is the reality and the truth of the situation. So, please contact Dinkytown Athletes.” — Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck.

“For all you folks that want us to keep winning, I would tell you to get on Savage Wolves, find that link. I’d love to see 5,000 people donate $1,000 to our NIL and get us to a point where we can recruit, retain and develop and have a program in the NIL world where the guys on our roster are able to benefit from that.” — NC State coach Dave Doeren.

“I can promise you -- Georgia, they bought some pretty good players. You’re allowed to these days, and we could use some help. That’s what they look like, you know what I mean, when you have 85 of ’em. I encourage anybody that’s disgruntled to pony up some more.” — Kentucky coach Mike Stoops.

“I’m grateful for our fans and every amount of money that they give to this university, this football program, paying money to come to games at Williams-Brice Stadium. But for those that have the ability to give, we need ya, for sure.” — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer.

“We’re a better football team with a worse record and that’s extremely frustrating, you know, because you see where the world is going ... So if we’re going to play those teams and people want us to beat Duke and North Carolina State and Syracuse and Maryland next year and Wake Forest next year, then there needs to be a commitment monetarily to helping us get the players that can beat them. Because if you’re not going to help us get the players to beat them, then you are not entitled to bitch when we don’t beat them.” — UConn coach Jim Mora.

I've learned a lot about the word 'gaslighting' in recent years, and this seems to check every box. "Because if you're not going to help us get the players to beat them, then you are not entitled to bitch when we don't beat them." What are we even doing here?


What world are we living in? Players aren't getting paid enough and we're yelling at.... the fans?

Let's not fool ourselves into thinking NIL is the problem, the modus operandi, or the solution of the future - it's not. NIL doesn't exist right now, and it's not the responsibility of fans or boosters to make sure players are getting paid.

The problem is that we've let the people cashing the fat checks and eating the pies convince the world that NIL is the way to provide a piece to the players. But the fact of the matter is that NIL and Collectives are a new pie - baked and served up by us, the fans. The guys with the fat checks and the bigger pies? They're fatter and happier than they've ever been.

It is important for me that BYU is competitive on the field and the court and the diamond. As a result, it's important for me that The Royal Blue Collective is well-funded and able to compete - because those are what the table stakes are right now. The Royal Blue does a great job for BYU and they're not going away anytime soon. I donate what I can because it's important to me and that's where I direct my funds.

I stopped donating to the Cougar Club when I started donating to The Royal Blue. I obviously don't have enough money to make a material difference to the bottom line at BYU, but from my seat, BYU is already getting their pie and they still aren't sharing that with the players. So why am I throwing more money for whip cream on top of their pie?

Instead of yelling at fans and complaining about NIL, these coaches should start talking about the people who are signing their checks. That takes courage to do - to stand up and point the finger and the hand who feeds you - but that's what needs to be done. If coaches are tired, burned out, or frustrated with the current state of the system, then start talking to the people in charge of the system. If you really want more money for your players, start talking to the people who are cashing those checks and demanding solutions for them - because those are the checks the players are actually earning.

But yelling at fans for a lack of funds in a collective? Or complaining about the state of NIL in college athletics? Please.

Prime is right. This is not the day of NIL.

"NIL" is a façade and these coaches are playing into the ruse.