With the college sports landscape shaking around him, Jon Scheyer lured the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2022 to Duke and he’s on course for another top class for next year.
The Blue Devils’ new basketball coach did so even as Duke, like every school in the country, grappled with groundbreaking changes in NCAA guidelines.
Spawned by the action of state legislatures and federal courts, college athletes are now allowed to leverage their name, image and likeness (NIL) through third-party marketing deals and have access to education-based payments approaching $6,000 a year from schools.
It’s up to each school to set its own policies for these new opportunities, which means coaches like Scheyer and his staff are getting questions from recruits and their families that weren’t on their minds even a year ago.
Yet Duke is pushing something that predates all of the changes.
“Part of the reason you come to Duke, and more importantly, is that there’s no bigger scene than Duke basketball,” Scheyer said. “There just aren’t any. The opportunity to do it on this stage, you can’t fake it. Now we have to keep pushing to put our players in a position to take advantage of it, where they can or what their value is. But this step, you can’t fake it.
World-class education and televising every men’s basketball game nationally are certainly strong selling points. But, the fact is, Duke is still attacking both NIL and education payments that are now authorized via the Supreme Court’s decision in NCAA v. Alston last June.
According to an ESPN study, only 22 of the 130 schools in the Football Bowl subdivision benefited from Alston’s decision by planning to pay their athletes $5,980 a year for academic performance. Only three are ACC schools – North Carolina, Clemson and Miami.
What Duke does
Duke created an education rights task force last year to determine how to proceed with Alston’s payments. While reviewing federal and state legal decisions and policies, the group’s meetings included conversations with coaches and athletes as well as Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth.
“The task force focused on identifying principles that could guide a plan with the goal of presenting several options to President (Vince) Price by the end of the semester,” according to a report Linda Franzoni, president of the Duke’s Athletics Council, submitted to the school’s Academic Council on April 18.
At its final spring semester meeting last Thursday, the Academic Council voted to accept this report as a working group. Although not at a resolution, he continued to make progress towards a resolution.
Unlike Alston’s payments, Duke has a written interim policy in place for NIL issues. Adopted after NIL compensation became authorized under NCAA rules on July 1, the policy allows Duke athletes to profit from being a social media influencer – by making personal appearances to promote a product or services or by appearing in advertisements.
To avoid any pay-for-play situations, the policy states that athletes cannot “receive or offer compensation conditional on initial or continued enrollment at Duke.” It also does not allow athletes “to be compensated based on a specific athletic performance or achievement.”
The policy allowed Duke basketball star Paolo Banchero to sign a deal that made him the first college player to appear in the NBA2K video game series. Wendell Moore, another starter who helped the Blue Devils reach the Final Four last month, has benefited from his marketing deal with Bojangles.
What Other ACC Schools Have Done
But, unlike some schools around the country, Duke has yet to form a collective of its boosters for NIL purposes. This puts the school behind its ACC rivals.
Clemson formed TigerImpact, whose stated goal is to “provide student-athletes the opportunity to develop further as part of their education at Clemson and to serve others by providing much-needed support to community charities.”
Florida State has several collectives, including Micconope 1851, which states that it will “help athletes earn NIL opportunities” with a mission to “go above and beyond to help athletes access alumni who can provide educational resources”.
North Carolina has the football-centric Heels4Life, which connects athletes with alumni for NIL opportunities. The athletic department as a whole partnered with The Brandr Group last summer on a group licensing program for Tar Heel athletes.
At Duke, the Athletic Council’s NIL task force met last fall and early spring to review the school’s draft policy and decided that it should remain as is for the time being.
“It’s possible that NC will pass state NIL law in the near future, in which case we won’t need university policy,” Franzoni, a Duke mechanical engineering professor, wrote in his report to the Council. academic last month.
Meanwhile, Duke coaches across sports continue to recruit in an environment where athletes and their families see NIL and Alston payments as a factor in their decisions.
“There were a lot of different conversations that five years ago we didn’t have,” Scheyer said. “But I think it’s going to be a good thing. It’s just a matter of making sure we have the structure in place to put our guys in the best possible position.
Sitting with Scheyer at a press conference at Cameron Indoor Stadium last week, Duke Basketball associate head coach Chris Carrawell, while emphasizing the value of the Duke brand, said he anticipates the school would eventually have a foundation or collective in place for NIL.
“With NIL and everything we do, we want to do it the right way,” Carrawell said. “That’s why we’re going to take our time and make sure the plan we have in place is a great plan.”