NIL’s Impact on Collegiate Athletes’ Career Decisions

Mar 20, 2023

by Chase Cooper

In the past, it was typical for athletes to transition from college to professional leagues prior to obtaining their degrees if they were ready to play at the next level. They would sacrifice their degrees to possibly make millions of dollars playing professional sports. Now, with the implementation of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), many of these athletes are reconsidering whether going professional before graduating is the best idea for them.

After NIL was passed on June 31, 2021, collegiate athletes were able to generate money for themselves through sponsorships, endorsements, autographs, etc. At first, many believed that NIL would only benefit superstar athletes, such as quarterbacks in football or a basketball team’s superstar player. However, we have seen athletes of all sports, both men’s and women’s, receiving money through NIL deals.


Bryce Young (right) and Tim Tebow (left) are featured together in a 2022 Nissan commercial. According to On3’s NIL Valuation, Young has an estimated annual value of $3.5 million.

College basketball has seen many star players staying to play for at least one more year rather than declaring for the NBA Draft. Given that there are only two rounds in the draft, there are many athletes that declare but do not get drafted. They are then ineligible to return to college to play basketball, unless they fill out special documentation to allow for continued college eligibility if not drafted. Instead of declaring for the draft, they can return to school for another year, knowing that there will be an opportunity for them to sign NIL deals.

Sam Gillenwater, an On3 writer, recognized a few players in his article that decided to return for another year of college, such as North Carolina’s Armando Bacot, Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis.

University of North Carolina’s star player, Armando Bacot, poses with a number of different drinks from Dunkin’ Donuts. Bacot signed an NIL deal with Dunkin’ in December 2022.

In a few years, it will be more clear as to how impactful NIL is on an athlete’s decision to remain in college for another year or take their talents to the professional leagues. Jay Bilas, a basketball analyst for ESPN, believes that NIL has had a significant impact on athlete’s decisions, and staying in school is a positive for them.

According to Gillenwater’s article, “‘For those that champion education, this is a major positive,’ Bilas said. ‘To have any athlete choose to continue his or her education, for whatever reason, can only be seen as a positive if one truly believes in education.’”

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