For the likes of Penn State football, tackling the finer points of name, image and likeness [NIL] is a necessary part of doing business in 2022. While the game will still be the most important thing, if you want to attract high profile recruits, having the ability to them find business partnership – or in short, help them make money – could be the deciding factor in the final decision a recruit makes.
Fortunately for fans of Penn State football, while the Nittany Lions might be ahead or behind the curve, they will almost certainly find their way through an ever changing landscape. Being a Penn State football player has value, and the potential for that value to grow is far greater than most college football programs.
But what about programs that don’t hold that cache? Take for example Penn State men’s basketball, a program that plays in the Big Ten and in turn generates plenty of eyeballs, but a program that is never – reasonably speaking – going to reach the same consistent heights as many of its conference brethren. In turn there is, for better or worse, a vast difference in the kind of NIL opportunities a Penn State men’s basketball player might have compared to that of players at Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin etc etc.
And this poses a challenge for second-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry who has managed well so far in his tenure to cobble together talented transfers and relatively high profile recruiting classes. Penn State’s freshman class comes to campus the highest rated class in program history – albeit none of the five players break into the 247 Network’s Top 100 with Kebba Nije slotting in at No. 111.
All the same the overarching challenge remains – continuing to recruit better and better players in a world where the money might simply be better somewhere else.
“I’m not going out and selling to recruits – if you come here this is how much money you can make,” Shrewsberry said earlier this week. “Like I don’t think – if that’s like number one on your priority list […] it’s probably not gonna be a great fit for me. I’m all for college students being paid like that. I am. I think they should be, I think that the way things are happening in college athletics they should be because they’re doing a lot of hard work. Right? They’re the ones that are playing at nine o’clock Central at Nebraska then they’ve got to come back and go to class. But if that’s your number one motivator it’s probably not the best fit for me. I want guys that love basketball and that’s at the top of your priority list at the end of the day.”
In fairness to Shrewsberry, Penn State probably needs players more apt to love basketball than anything else, and in fairness to Shrewsberry it’s not as though the players Penn State and Michigan State are chasing are often the same. It happens, but high profile recruits are heading to high profile programs. In a lot of ways you could do worse than Penn State to be sure, but there is clearly a difference between Penn State and many of the programs in the Big Ten.
So what’s the pitch? Getting you better, and turning that into real money.
“I think we can help you become a better player,” Shrewsberry said. “I think we can help put you in position to make a lot of real money playing professional basketball in terms of how we do our player development, in terms of how we focus on how we play the game and how it translates to the next level. I think those are the advantages that we have, like the years of professional time spent with professional teams as a staff. There’s got to be up there in terms of other teams in the country.”
Shrewsberry’s time in the NBA is well documented, but assistant Aki Collins, Director of Player Development Mike Green and Assistant to the Head Coach, Tre Whitted all have NBA ties and coaching time spent as well.
“So if that’s your goal, we can help you do it, then we’ll have a plan for you to do it. At the same time we’ll help you as much as we can until our limit comes of what you can make as a student athlete. But let’s do the best of both right you come here and get a great education. You come here and be prepared to play professional basketball, you come here and compete for a championship. Like you can do all those things as well as the others – but if like you come in and your first question is “Hey, what’s your NIL package?” Yeah, you know, that’s not, that’s not gonna fly with me.”
All of this isn’t to say Penn State basketball has no lane in the NIL space. Guard Myles Dread has found his own niche with an inside access app while guard Ishaan Jagiasi signed on with Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford’s NIL initiative as well. The key moving forward according to Shrewsberry, is trying to get ahead of the curve.
“I still think [NIL] is gonna change the next couple of years,” Shrewsberry said. “it’s gonna change even more. So if you feel like you’re ahead of the game, that’s when I think you can benefit from it. So just bringing more ideas to the table, seeing what’s next, and trying to be ahead of what’s next and trying to benefit our program in the best way possible.”
But in the meanwhile the biggest thing on Shrewsberry’s mind isn’t money, it’s making baskets.