OK, we have our first NIL-era villain.
We heard the coaches complain that it would ruin the sport, that the opening of the transfer portal combined with NIL rights would de facto turn the NCAA into a free-lance pro league, and we said: Oh, you’re just mad the kids get paid, that’s not really going to happen. Even if it happens, it won’t be as bad as you say.
Well, we might not have been entirely wrong in saying that, but it turns out the critics made some valid points. Hurricane Miami yesterdays guard Isaiah Wong told the country (through a statement from his agent) that he would enter the transfer portal if his NIL “compensation” was not collected.
Federal regulation of laws can be difficult to follow, but Florida does not allow schools to be directly involved. Specifically, the law reads:
“A post-secondary educational institution, an institution whose purpose is to support or promote the institution or its athletic programs, or an officer, director or employee of such institution or institution shall not compensate, or cause to be compensated, any current or prospective intercollegiate athlete for her or his name, likeness, or likeness.”
So it’s not entirely clear how Wong The U thought. would do anything about his situation without, you know, breaking the law. While Wong understandably sees other players getting great deals and sponsorships through NIL and wants his own earnings to reflect his performance in the Elite Eight 2022, the transfer threat isn’t exactly aimed at anyone.
If anything, the statement appears to be aimed at billionaire John Ruiz, who has signed NIL contracts with over 100 Miami student athletes – including Wong. A transfer from Kansas State puts more into a Ruiz-sponsored deal than Wong’s contract grants him, and Wong is upset about it, though Ruiz told ESPN he wasn’t ready to renegotiate. (Then why the numbers out there, Ruiz?)
To be honest, this whole situation is less a reflection on Wong and more on the sheer incompetence of the NCAA and the US government in governing NIL regulations. Instead of building a solid structure and basic set of national rules, they basically dumped a bunch of 18- and 19-year-olds firstan industry frothing at the mouth to throw its millions at college athletes. Now Wong and Miami are stuck in a situation where Wong appears to believe this is a pay-to-play structure and not an open market deal with a non-connected person.
NIL deals have often been used as temptations and recruitment tools for incoming commitments. Even the players you think of now who have had success on the field – Bryce Young, C.J Stroud, Caleb Williams – had offers before they played college football. It’s about fame and looks and unfortunately, realistically, a whole lot more than talent and leadership. But that’s how it’s always worked — especially with the total lack of regulation stemming from the NCAA’s crumbling structure.