Athletes Cashing In on NIL During March Madness
By: Daniel Flores
March Madness is one of the biggest sporting events in the country that attracts basketball enthusiasts and casual viewers alike every year. Whether you are a die-hard fan or just excited because your college is in the tournament for the first time, March Madness has something for everyone. The tournament is known for its high intensity games that come down to the wire, upsets and underdog stories that make it enjoyable to watch.
As the Final Four approaches, the teams are focused on winning and cashing in on NIL deals. The tournament has become more significant for the athletes because of this.
Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) has now been allowed for just 20 months and college basketball players are cashing in during the big dance. University of Miami Sophomore Guard, Nijel Pack, is earning $400K a year due to a deal with LifeWallet. Miami is still dancing as Nijel Pack has averaged 18.5 points per game through the tournament. Isaiah Wong, who shares the backcourt with Pack, is getting $100,000 from LifeWallet.
Florida Atlantic University’s Men’s team is playing their best basketball in school history. After finishing 33-3 and winning the Conference-USA Championship, the Owls have reached the Final Four for the first time in school history. The Final Four run has helped boost NIL deals and notoriety for FAU players. Influxer Merch, which is based in Dallas, has signed eight FAU players to NIL deals to sell T-Shirts with their names, number, and school logo, according to South Florida Business Journal. Sophomore Guard Johnell Davis has experienced a 135% follower increase on Instagram during the tournament. Every FAU men’s basketball team player has earned at least one NIL deal with Opendorse.
The San Diego State Aztecs are playing in their first ever Final Four and their athletes are bringing in NIL money. Each player that is on scholarship is getting $2,000 a month from MESA Foundation for participating in community events as well as promoting MESA Foundation on their social media. This provides an opportunity for every scholarship player to receive NIL money, regardless of whether they start or are on the bench.
The UConn Huskies are known for their Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams. Competing in their sixth Final Four, the Huskies are looking to win their fifth National Championship. Freshman Guard, Andre Johnson Jr., is getting $25,000 from Degree Deodorant as an NIL deal. Johnson is a walk-on and has played just ten minutes this season. Guard Jordan Hawkins recently got an NIL deal with Dunkin Donuts but the details of the deal were not released. AP All-Big East First Team Forward, Adama Sanogo, is not eligible for NIL deals. A native of Mali, Sanogo only has a student visa which does not allow him to earn NIL deals.
On the women’s side, LSU Sophomore Forward, Angel Reese, led her team to their sixth Final Four. She also leads all of college basketball with 17 NIL deals. Caitlin Clark, who has taken college basketball by storm with her scoring ability, led the Iowa Women’s Basketball team to their first Final Four since 1993. Clark has NIL deals with Nike, Topps, H&R Block and Bose just to name a few. The defending National Champions, South Carolina, have cruised to a 31-0 record and a spot in the Final Four. Each player on the team can make at least $25,000 thanks to their NIL collectiv.e The Garnet Trust. Virginia Tech has made history by reaching their first Final Four. However, that has not stopped their players from securing NIL deals. 2X reigning ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley has deals with Triumph NIL,CMG Leasing, and Gourmet Pantry.
NIL has a profound impact on college basketball. Some athletes are opting to return to school for another year to continue cashing in on NIL deals instead of entering the NBA or WNBA Draft. No matter what each athlete chooses, their notoriety, name, image, and likeness have been significantly elevated during March Madness. All eyes will be on the Final Four as each team fights for a spot in the National Championship.