TCU football coach Gary Patterson encouraged local business leaders and TCU supporters to embrace the NIL era in college athletics.
Patterson painted a realistic view of the future in college football — and college sports in general — with players now being able to profit off their name, image and likeness during an NIL event put on by the university Wednesday night.
How TCU is helping student-athletes profit off NIL is what recruits are asking about most these days. And it will surely impact the program’s ability to keep current players from entering the ever-growing NCAA transfer portal.
“In taxes, do you do short form or do you do deductions? I can promise you there’s nobody in this room that does the short form,” Patterson said, smiling. “That’s what I’m talking about in recruiting. Everybody lives in the gray area. Everybody in this room lives in the gray area. The bottom line to it is we’re going to have to live in the gray area if we want to keep up.”
Patterson raved about this year’s roster being relatively indifferent when it comes to NIL. Quarterback Max Duggan is more focused about his play on the field than his earnings potential off it. The same can be said for players such as defensive end Ochaun Mathis and linebacker Dee Winters.
But that doesn’t mean recruits aren’t noticing what other schools are doing. Texas A&M and the University of Texas, for instance, have team-specific websites paying various players for exclusive interviews. The University of Miami has a booster who owns a chain of mixed martial arts gyms that is offering $500 a month to every scholarship football player to promote the gyms on social media.
“We’re going to have to be up and running for my group by the end of November,” Patterson said, “or I have a chance to lose 25, 30 guys. That’s as plain and simple as I can speak of it.”
TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati felt Patterson spoke the truth facing college programs in today’s environment.
“You’ve got to have a solid NIL plan in place on campus and you also have to be able to show that your athletes are being supported from the local community,” Donati said. “That’s just the stone cold hard truth of big time college athletics now.
“Gary had to reinforce to people that it’s time to understand that. I’ve had so many folks who want to get involved and be supportive but just don’t quite know how it works.”
TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon echoed those thoughts and so did baseball coach Kirk Saarloos.
Saarloos mentioned the baseball program has lost three recruits to SEC schools in the last two months.
“Those kids that we’re losing are getting guarantees (from SEC schools),” Saarloos said. “They’re saying, ‘Our fans love baseball more than any conference in the country. We guarantee you’ll get at least $1,000 a month.’”
Patterson has seen it from the football side too.
Patterson didn’t mention the player by name, but said there are multiple SEC schools still calling one of his highly touted freshmen on the roster.
“There’s five SEC schools calling him and telling him, ‘Here’s what we’ll give you if you come here and not stay at TCU,’” Patterson said. “At the end of the day, that’s just real life. If we don’t do anything about it, within a year we lose him.
“The rules have changed. There is no wrong anymore.”
Patterson went on to say that he’s more concerned about what he described as the “98%” rather than the “2%” that are signing seven-figure deals. The majority of college athletes are not going to reach the pro level, but earning as much as possible during their college years has become a priority now.
“Five-thousand dollars to someone who has dirt on their floors is a lot of money,” he said.
At the end of the day, Patterson said, local businesses and supporters have to embrace and support TCU athletes in the NIL era. TCU itself is doing as much as it can to prepare for the new era of college athletics.
The school has partnered with Opendorse, a company that educates student-athletes on building their own personal brand and becoming as marketable as possible. The athletics department and the business school have also formed a partnership to increase the NIL program.
Wednesday’s event served as a way for TCU athletics officials to educate the businesses on how to approach potential NIL deals.
“We planted the trees. Now we have to water ‘em,” Patterson said. “I hear, ‘Well, I don’t want to get dirty. It feels dirty. I don’t know the rules.’ Let me just say, you guys know me, I’m just going to tell the truth — the bottom line to it is I can lose 25-30 guys on scholarships by January.
“Players recruit players. When a kid calls, ‘Well, how are they taking care of you?’ If they don’t say they’re giving me this then the kid is not going to come. Players recruit players.
“It takes more to stay where we’re at than it took to get here. We’ve done a lot to get here, but if you want to play at a very high level, what you have to understand is we’re going to have to do some things to make sure that we stay and keep growing. At the end of the day, what does that entail? We’re going to have learn but we’re going to have to learn it a lot faster than what everybody right now is willing to do.”
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