NILBraska promotional graphic released when Nebraska announced their NIL plan in full on June 3. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Athletics.

Name, image and likeness has arguably become bigger than anyone ever thought it could be. Still there are bound to be some roadblocks along the way. One of those roadblocks is recruiting. High profile coaches such as Dabo Swinney and Mike Krzyzewski, have spoken out about the imbalances and unfairness of NIL in regards to recruiting. 

In an interview with David Rosenblum, Dabo Swinney was asked how much NIL changed football, and if he ever thought it would not be used as a recruiting tool.

“There’s no rules, no guidance, nothing.” Swinney said. “It’s out of control, it’s not sustainable, it is an absolute mess and a train wreck, and the kids will be the ones suffering in the end.”

Swinney said that the statements were not meant to demean NIL in any way, young student athletes can profit off of themselves and everything they have worked so hard for. But Swinney and other decorated coaches in the college ranks have talked about the problems it has caused within their recruiting process.

Nebraska has seemingly had few problems at the forefront of NIL and recruiting. If anything it benefits more with its incredibly passionate fanbase, and local business support the Huskers have. 

With those big decisions, comes some premature commitments. Many young kids in high school have been quick to jump at the money since NIL has been in the forefront, leading many power five coaches and recruiters to imply that they can make particular amounts of cash, and have a certain number of deals. 

That is where the imbalances come in for Nebraska, which has focused more on the players’ abilities, and how it can grant them the best education possible at a major university. 

Casey Rogers, who announced his transfer to Oregon May 4, has experienced the NIL landscape at its peak. He compared the landscape at the beginning, to his experience in the transfer portal. 

With the transfer portal as prevalent as it has been since it started in 2018, NIL deals are at the forefront of the decisions players make when switching schools. 

“It is definitely a big part of each school’s pitch,” Rogers said. “Even though the coaches don’t really have anything to do with the NIL process, they do know a lot of the opportunities and benefits their players are receiving. NIL was really unpredictable at first, now every student-athlete is much smarter and knows the ropes a little bit better.”

Unpredictability might not be the exact word to describe NIL anymore with the emergence of ‘collectives’ which have brought a sense of predictability and allow athletes to access NIL possibilities by viewing the numbers themselves. 

Collectives, which are independent of a university, can serve a variety of purposes. Most often, they pool funds from boosters and businesses, help facilitate NIL deals for athletes, and also create their own ways for athletes to monetize their brands. 

One person at the forefront of the coverage on collectives is Eric Prisbell, the national college sports business writer at On3.

“They have been essential recruiting tools,” Prisbell said. “Industry sources have told me that Power Five collectives will need to generate at least $5 million annually to be competitive. The most ambitious collectives aim to raise upwards of $25 million annually.

N100 is a donor-driven collective that recently announced a partnership with the Huskers that is aimed to help athletes find NIL deals and monetize themselves. As collectives have rapidly grown, every Power Five school is expected to be affiliated with at least one collective by the end of the year. 

Collectives allow players to visualize opportunities based on actual data that is presented as well as business partners affiliated with the collective. 

“The arms race among donor-driven collectives will continue to thrive until and unless guardrails are put in place,” Prisbell said. “This arms race will favor the collectives with the strongest financial muscle. That means the gap will continue to widen between the haves and have-nots in college sports.” 

Nebraska columnist Sam McKewon has a similar opinion regarding universities’ competition for the largest pools of collective cash. 

“The NCAA can’t really stop collectives,” McKewon said. “A realistic way to harness NIL and collectives without a big lawsuit is meeting with Congress, but getting Congress to pass a bill is a longshot.”

A quick foreshadow to the next big wave of NIL, is directives. These are similar to collectives, with one major difference. Prisbell has extensive knowledge about the business side of collegiate sports.

“Directives are one-to-one transactions between a deep-pocketed donor and an elite athlete for a specific purpose (stay in school another year, for example),” Prisbell said. “When considering collectives and directives, there are no guardrails right now. This is a landscape that is advantageous to those who want to push the envelope and exploit loopholes.”

With very little information on directives, it is hard to give an affirmative guess on when they will make a splash onto the NIL scene, but if we have paid attention to everything else, it is reasonable to say they are expected very, very soon.

NIL has greatly impacted the recruiting landscape. And the NCAA, as well as its respective universities will be the ones who may not be able to recover from the endless financial competition it now takes to bring players to their schools.