Before Carolina tipped off against Syracuse yesterday, The New York Times came out with an article talking about NIL in the NCAA. The focus of the piece: North Carolina athletics ($$$).
Complete with a picture of Armando Bacot exiting his Carolina Blue Audi Q8 — which appears to be a custom color as it’s one you can’t see available for the vehicle — Bruce Schoenfel dives into the issue of NIL and how its changed college athletics, both for the good and better. Rather than going around and hitting up a ton of other colleges, he spends his time focusing on UNC.
The piece is a good summation of a lot of issues in college sports right now: inequity in college sports funding both in the TV contracts and how sports are paid, issues of advertising, and the shifting of funds going from university-controlled groups (The Rams Club) to NIL collectives (Heels4Life) and how that could affect other sports.
For the quotes, it’s clear that Schoenfel had been to Chapel Hill several times. He talks of a conversation with Bubba Cunningham while they are watching a basketball practice, was shown around Chapel Hill by Matson in August, spent time with Mack Brown around the height of the football season, and spoke with field hockey legend Karen Shelton, both before and after their national title win.
The whole article is a long read, but worth it. Some of the highlights include:
- The acknowledgment that both Armando Bacot and Caleb Love are earning six figures from their various NIL deals.
- Matson acknowledging that while she may have been one of the most visible Olympic sports athletes at Carolina, her NIL deals are but a sliver of what football and basketball players earn.
- An actual look at the numbers earned both by football and how much it costs to operate field hockey.
- A discussion about the advertising conflicts that NIL can bring to an athletic department.
There’s much more and, again, the article is really worth the read. It’s great that Cunningham provided the Times this much access to where they could get frank quotes from all the players involved. Cunningham is given the chance to talk about the difficulty in continuing the 28 varsity sports when the funding gap is so small, but also plainly saying that they will be doing all they can to help players get deals so they can start to, for the first time, benefit off the work they do in college.
No quote from Bacot, though, on where he got the Audi painted that Carolina Blue.
It does ultimately ask the question: how are UNC and others going to try and continue to get their funding so they can compete at the level they had been in sports not called basketball or football? Cunningham doesn’t have much of an answer for now, but it’s one that will need an answer for fans to continue to enjoy what has been brought to them.
It also explains why schools like USC and UCLA are willing to pack up for a midwestern conference when the funding is so different. Who knows where things will be in about ten years when the ESPN/ACC deal nears its end, but it’s clear in reading this that unless that funding has significantly increased, UNC fans should prepare themselves for a conference move themselves.