Sports

An assessment of NIL at IU, Purdue, and Butler one year after paying players became legal

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — July 1 marks one year since student-athletes across the NCAA started profiting from their name, image, and likeness on campuses across America. 

“This is an important day for college athletes since they all are now able to take advantage of name, image, and likeness opportunities,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said at the time of the ruling.

Since the landmark decision, institutions with major college football or basketball programs raced to implement a game plan around NIL, with current student-athletes eager to take advantage of what many long considered a fundamental right despite the NCAA’s unwillingness to amend its rules. 

After one year of NIL, it appears that the only thing the NCAA, university officials, coaches, players, and boosters agree upon is that no one can predict exactly how NIL evolves from here.

NIL undoubtedly will move past what is being considered a “Wild West” period, with NCAA leaders currently busy drafting additional rules and regulations that can provide vital checks and balances to a system that essentially has two rules at the moment:

  1. Schools or boosters cannot contact or negotiate with prospective student-athletes regarding NIL compensation (i.e. high school students or college transfers)
  2. All NIL deals must be disclosed to university compliance offices

Regardless of what rules arrive next, college boosters and passionate alumni bases are more important than ever, with collectives exploding across the nation. 

A collective essentially accomplishes two goals at the heart of any NIL deal:

  1. Raise capital from donors that go directly to student-athletes 
  2. Negotiate business deals for student-athletes, which allows them the opportunity to earn that capital 

An alternative to a collective is an exchange, which eliminates a clear middle-man between student-athletes and businesses. Instead, online marketplaces allow either side to seek out a deal and directly negotiate the terms of their agreement. 

The problem at the moment for the NCAA? With no power to subpoena bank records or communications between the people or private businesses making NIL deals with student-athletes, it is extremely difficult to prove when these deals are being presented to players.

In June, the NCAA sent investigators to the University of Miami for rounds of interviews with school officials and prominent billionaire booster John Ruiz, who shared publicly earlier this year his plan to fund up to $10M in NIL deals for Hurricanes student-athletes.

To date, Ruiz says he has committed $7M in NIL deals, most notably a reported $800,000 agreement over two years with Kansas State transfer point guard Nijel Pack, who previously starred at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. 

Ruiz went on the record after his interview, saying he stands by his NIL deals which include agreements with over 110 current student-athletes at Miami. 

Nijel Pack #24 of the Kansas State Wildcats drives against Robert Jones #12 of Iowa State. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

This coming season at the University of Kentucky, forward Oscar Tshiebwe will be the first reigning Wooden Award winner to return to school since North Carolina standout Tyler Hansbrough in 2008. Tshiebwe landed a reported $2M NIL deal, which exceeds what his earnings were as a projected second-round selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. 

So, one year in, how are the prominent college basketball programs in Indiana approaching NIL? 

Indiana University

At Indiana University, two main collectives have formed over the past year: Hoosiers For Good and the Hoosier Hysterics NIL Collective.

The Hoosier Hysterics NIL Collective is operated by IU alums Eric Pankowski and Ward Roberts, who are taking time away from successful careers in Hollywood to facilitate arguably the most social media-friendly collective in the country.

Pankowski is an Emmy-winning television executive and producer, working for years with the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” and helping launch TMZ before helping to create the hit “Carpool Karaoke” series on Apple TV+, which started as a breakout segment on “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” “Carpool Karaoke” has earned four Emmy awards and the segments on YouTube have over one billion views. 

Roberts is originally from Peru, Ind., and is an actor and director with credits in popular television series including “Westworld,” “NCIS,” “NCIS: LA,” and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Despite a significant time commitment to running the HHNIL’s Collective and overhead costs which include marketing and legal fees, neither Pankowski nor Roberts are collecting a paycheck.  

“Not one penny goes to Ward, or me, or anyone else,” Pankowski said. “Every single dime that goes into the collective, goes 100% to NIL deals.” 

For many, this will be hard to comprehend, but you must first understand the diehard nature of this duo

“Supporting the university and the basketball program, that is what we were born into,” Roberts said. “We were raised in households that did that. To us, this is not just giving back to the best four years of our life, but the four years of our lives that brought so much joy, happiness, and pride into the rest of our adult lives.”

Go to any college, and you’ll find fans just like Pankowksi and Roberts. So why aren’t collectives like HHNIL, which doesn’t bank on a personal fortune as funding, popping up everywhere?

“I just think some schools have alumni that are more aggressive than others when it comes to this stuff,” Pankowski said. “We were fortunate that the Hoosier Hysterics brand and podcast put us in a position where we were having conversations that we never would have had before the podcast, and by having those conversations and building relationships with the athletic department and coaching staff, we realized, there is this need coming. We weren’t sure who was going to fill the void. So, what the hell, we are the ones we had been waiting for. We just jumped in and have been figuring it out ever since.”

Most recently, the HHNIL Collective inked deals Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau, IU’s top recruits among the Hoosiers’ highly touted 2022 freshman class.

In August, the Hoosier Basketball Fantasy Experienceorganized by Hoosier Hysterics, will involve and benefit both IU’s men’s and women’s programs over a three-day weekend in Bloomington. 

Former IU basketball coach Bob Knight with Hoosiers Hysterics co-founders Eric Pankowski (left) and Ward Roberts (right) during a Hoosier Hysterics fan event in Bloomington during the fall of 2019. (Provided Photo/Hoosier Hysterics NIL)

After one year, what are the takeaways for the HHNIL collective?

“We did announce several months ago that he had raised over $200,000,” Pankowski said. “Over the last several months, we have more than doubled that. It also took some time to convince some more established donors at Indiana that it was okay to pay players in some way. That is a challenge we have at Indiana that other schools simply don’t have, which is, there is the old school thought that you get a scholarship at Indiana. That is what you get to be a student-athlete and that is all you get. There has been a real hesitation to go anywhere near paying players.”

“This is the new reality,” Pankowski went on to say. “This is legal. This is playing by the rules. And you can be a curmudgeon and not do it, or you can get on board and help Indiana succeed in the new landscape of college athletics. That is what we are doing, and I think, in the last year, it took people some time to get comfortable with it.”

Purdue University

To this point, Purdue is taking a slightly different approach. 

The Boilermaker Marketplace Exchange is an online portal for players and businesses to connect and strike deals without the help of a middleman (collective). 

Using a content platform called INFLCR, owned and operated by TeamWorks, this app has grown exponentially since July 1, 2021. According to the INFLCR website, over 70,000 athletes are currently active on the app.

“(The Boilermaker Marketplace Exchange) is the front porch for NIL at Purdue University,” Teamworks Director of Business Development Kevin Barefoot said. “Businesses can first go and register and see a directory of all the student-athletes at Purdue. From there, they can propose NIL deals and then actually pay the student-athletes through the system, which automatically goes directly to the Purdue compliance office. It’s a one-stop-shop.” 

Sophomore forward Mason Gillis talks with a prospective business about potential NIL opportunities during an event giving Purdue’s student-athletes the opportunity to meet with more than 100 local businesses and organizations. (Provided Photo/ Purdue Athletics) 

“I think one of the most important points to point out is that this is a technology that Purdue has invested in on the front end, and we take no transaction fees from the marketplace,” Barefoot went on to say. “All the dollars that are designed and directed to student-athletes make it to student-athletes.”

Butler University

According to a Butler University spokesperson, those supporting Butler’s athletics programs are pursuing both an exchange and the collective model to aid NIL deals for Bulldogs players. As of this July, a group of Butler alumni formed All Good Dawgs (ADG), an NIL collective that will help Butler student athletes use their influence and community-minded leadership to raise awareness for charitable causes in Central Indiana.

The All Good Dawgs board members include former Butler athletes, including Butler Basketball stars Matt Howard (Class of 2011) and Chris Miskel (Class of 1996) and the voice of the Butler Bulldogs, Mark Minner (Class of 2012). “What excites me about AGD is the opportunity to help connect these athletes with the community,” Howard said. “Beyond that helping educate them on their potential value and how to best conduct themselves in the professional world should help better prepare them for life after their student-athlete experience. In the process there are some really meaningful causes that will be benefit and the athlete can feel good about supporting.”All Good Dawgs officially went public on July 18, but the collective announced that its soft-launch earlier this year has already brought in significant contributions. Supporters are able to contribute directly to AGD through their website. “We are excited by the potential of what AGD could mean to Butler student athletes and the Central Indiana community,” All Good Dawgs Executive Director Mark McFatridge (Class of 1990 and 2000) said. “We are in search of fellow passionate Butler supporters who wish to contribute to AGD, and Central Indiana nonprofits that want to connect with Butler athletes and leverage their existing and potential platforms.”