‘I don’t know what the solution is’: Isaiah Wong’s money demands exposed college sports’ complicated NIL issue

College sports’ name, image and likeness landed on a grenade Thursday night when Miami guard Isaiah Wong’s NCAA-approved agent went on to make a threat, making likes that had never been said on the record in college sports history.

“If Isaiah and his family do not feel that the NIL number meets their expectations they will be entering the transfer portal tomorrow, while maintaining their eligibility in the NBA draft and going through the draft process,” Wong’s agent, Adam Papas, told ESPN. General Chat Chat Lounge

In other words: Pay up or we’re out.

What took so long? Athletic directors and coaches have been griping, lately privately, that something like this was bound to happen. That sound they heard was Pandora’s box cracking allllll The way open, its contents and potential consequences are spewing across the NCAA.

“Insanity!” A power-conference coach texted within minutes of the ESPN.com story being published.

Less than 24 hours later, Wong backed offGeneral Chat Chat Lounge He will, after all, not enter the transfer portalGeneral Chat Chat Lounge Wong will either return to Miami or be in the NBA Draft and pursue a pro career. (He’s considered a fringe prospect.)

The context: Wong, who just completed his third season with Miami, helped guide the Hurricanes to a surprise Elite Eight run where they lost to eventual national champion Kansas. Fast-forward to April 23. Coveted Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack picks Miami. In a first, billionaire Miami booster John Ruiz co-announces Pack’s decision while also announcing his transfer of business terms. Pack agreed to a two-year deal worth $ 800,000 – and a car – to play for Miami (Ruiz’s alma mater). Never had an announcement like this done. Obviously, Wong noticed. He’d already signed an inferior NIL deal with LifeWallet, Ruiz’s company. Wong was set to make less than a future teammate who did not have to contribute to Miami’s first Elite run in program history.

Understandably, Wong wanted more. Apparently he ‘ll be getting it. The gambit worked, even if Wong’s bluff also kind of got called. This will freak out coaches even more.

Wong had the agency to leave Miami if he didn’t get more money. The program was caught in the middle of this. College players are not watching to contract because they are not professional athletes and they do not have unions. Wong is holding his talent over Miami’s head while engaging in a public stand-off with a billionaire who is not endorsed or officially affiliated with Miami Basketball is an NCAA nightmare. This is exactly what has spooked college sports across many. What kind of future are we looking at here? In an unintentional way, Wong brought light to perhaps the single biggest and most vexing problem facing the NCAA.

However, if you think this is an isolated incident, it’s time to come out of the caves. By choosing to go public with his gripe, Wong has only exposed a reality that has existed for decades: under-the-table brokering to keep, or lure, college talent. In the here and now, what Wong is doing is no different than what is legally (though in some ways questionably) happening elsewhere, just without the publicity or transparency.

You may have missed it, but what Wong did Thursday also happened earlier in the week in much quieter fashion at Wichita State. Craig Porter Jr. Averaged 7.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists for an underperforming Shockers team last season. Like most on Wichita State’s roster, as the program lagged all season in NIL initiatives, Porter recently announced he was going to transfer.

Then Wichita State announced an NIL collective on Tuesday. That same day Porter announced he was staying at the school. Wonder why!

Porter is directly tied to the arrival of the Armchair Strategies, which has worked quickly to put together a package for him to benefit from his name, image and likeness, “according to a report from the Wichita Eagle.

The threat worked.

Many highly touted transfers are seeking the bag in a similar fashion. Nearly a dozen sources told CBS Sports that 2022 transfers such as Kendric Davis (committed to Memphis), Norchad Omier (Miami), Tyrese Hunter, Baylor Scheiermann, Johni Broome, KJ Williams, Kevin McCullar and Kenneth Lofton Jr. have all sought significant money deals. Although this may not be the primary reason for every one of them, the notion of being recruited to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars helped push all these high-end players into the portal. It ‘s definitely driving their agents to be aggressive; The Commission on some of these deals, sources told CBS Sports, is in the double-digit percentage range.

“For these guys, the NBA is either saying ‘no’ or saying ‘not yet,’ so, ‘I need to put myself in a place to make the next best professional decision, and that’s to transfer,'” One of the players recruiting a coach involved in the above told CBS Sports. (Coaches are not able to speak publicly about unsigned players of theirs.)

That coach also said one of the players mentioned above is shopping for a price of $ 300,000 for his name, image and likeness rights to pair with his commitment to a school. Multiple sources told CBS Sports that one of the transfers listed above is an agent who told schools recruiting him that he believes his client deserves more money than Nijel Pack received at play in Miami. In essence, if you are a school not willing to align yourself with a company or companies willing to pay north of $ 400,000 for this player, don’t bother.

“It wasn’t, this is how it might be. It was, ‘This is how it’s going to be,'” a power-conference coach who was looking to recruit that player and spoke with the player’s agent told CBS Sports. “I just needed to hear it for myself.”

Said recruiting another coach involved in that player: “How it went with my assistant was, ‘I’m going to come in and give you a competitive offer of what he deserves and there will be no renegotiating.'”

Yet another player listed above, according to sources, had a representative lie to other schools about how much money he was being offered in an effort to raise that player’s potential NIL deal. The three coaches involved in the recruitment conferred with each other to suss out what was happening.

“Some of this is liar’s poker,” said a veteran coach who was related in recent recruits.

“This was the NCAA’s worst nightmare,” an NBA agent told CBS Sports. “This is the thing they wanted to avoid, and less than 12 months into this [NIL era] it’s happening. “

Things might get even noisier over the weekend. Players have until May 1 to officially request a transfer portal and maintain eligibility at a new school for next season. More than a dozen coaches contacted by CBS Sports said they expect a crush on new names to enter the portal as the deadline approaches.

“Any kid entering the portal in the last 72 hours, that’s about 1,000% leverage,” said one coach at a highly ranked program. “What all of the sudden changed with your situation to make you do this now? It’s because, in 48 hours, I have no leverage.”

What has this NIL era become? In some ways and for some players it is a bald negotiation tactic that amounts to a pay-for-play scheme, which is still expressly against the rules.

It ‘s what Wong has done. He clearly said he wants to make more money playing in Miami. Ruiz said Friday he’s trying to make that happen. It ‘s a contract negotiation, not an NIL sponsorship. It could eventually – maybe – be retroactively deemed illegal by the NCAA. But who is enforcing these rules? Will they ever be enforced? Are the loopholes so large now that they may not exist as well? Many in the sport believe there is some redistribution and redefinition of what is a pure NIL play vs. what Wong and others are doing.

For example, there is a difference between Oscar Tshiebwe being the Universal National Player of the Year, assessing his iffy NBA prospects, being announced to become a millionaire if he stays in college basketball, then opting to return to the open arms of everyone around. Him at Kentucky who wants to make him a rich man. There that is… then there is Wong, who is already being paid, is now unsatisfied with his deal, and threatened to bounce.

The NCAA deserves what it’s getting right now. Had Mark Emmert and the organization not rearranged deck chairs and instead tried to put policies into place years ago, college sports were not changing this seismic period where the transfer portal, immediate eligibility and wild-wild-west NIL doings are converging. Create once volcanic levels of chaos behind the scenes. One coach relayed this story, which is both believable and potentially apocryphal: Earlier this month a respected power-conference coach had two players walk into his office asking how they would be able to earn $ 250,000 in NIL compensation.

The coach didn’t have the answers. Best I can tell, those players, to this point, have not found that money.

“I had a coach call me yesterday and said ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing,'” the NBA agent told CBS Sports. “I have no idea what is going on.”

While I’m all for player empowerment, the question is worth asking: Is the current state-by-state-, school-by-school, conference-by-conference NIL model sustainable in the long run? Almost no one in college athletics believes what’s happening right now is viable for the credibility of college athletics going forward. But where are the answers? Nobody seems to have them.

“I don’t know what the solution is, that is the crazy part,” said an SEC coach.

Said an ACC coach: “There is no education on how we are allowed to handle this, or at least the education that is given is awful. The way the rules are designed right now makes zero sense.”

All of this makes for a fascinating spectacle. In some ways, it’s entertaining. College basketball has a jolt in its offseason news cycle in ways that never happened before. The Wong story broke during the NFL Draft and arguably became the No. 2 story in the midst of one of the busier sports nights of the year. Meanwhile, Miami coach Jim Larranaga got caught in the middle of a business tiff between his best potential returning player and a billionaire booster who’s trying to recruit Miami basketball to a place it has never been before. He was effectively helpless. By law, he couldn’t even engage in conversations with Ruiz about the third-party deals Ruiz is running. Sources said he doesn’t – that Larranaga’s turned off by everything that happened here.

Wong’s decision to go public was a star of the NFL running back threatening to hold out, or choosing an NBA player to trade his demands through his agent and the press. College sports has never seen this before. A new era began on Thursday night. What Wong did was more than simply and publicly choosing to play hardball with a billionaire. He exposed the system as it has always been played in the shadows. Many in the general public and in the media have sided with player empowerment. Wong’s gambit was received with mixed reviews, though cooler heads (and deeper pockets) have apparently prevailed.

How Wong’s story will turn out will help inform how the college sports environment will modify the course of the spring, summer and fall. Plenty of ADs and coaches are terrified over the fact that, even though Wong balked at his transfer threat, he will still get more money out of this.

“This secondary market is finding these types of players and trying to fill out rosters by paying them off, I don’t think that’s what we wanted to see happen,” the NBA agent said. “And I don’t know if that rule will continue, but that is the way it is now. And unless there is a cautionary tale or the NCAA changes, and if that is going to be a drawn-out process, it will be our new normal. for now. ”

On Thursday night free agency truly arrived on a public stage in college sports. It was so drastic, it was a veteran coach pining for the old days.

“Why can’t we go back to how it was,” the coach said. “Just have someone drop a bag, go back to it when it was cheating before. I like that world.”

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