WEST LAFAYETTE – It was promoted as a Meet, Greet & Eat with Bowl Game Heroes earlier this month at Bruno’s Pizza and Big O’s Sports Room in West Lafayette.
Quarterback Aidan O’Connell and tight end Payne Durham, two stars of Purdue’s Music City Bowl victory over Tennessee last December, were on hand to sign autographs and take pictures with fans for about an hour. Receiver Broc Thompson was scheduled to attend but a last-minute change of plans took him out of town.
This is called a Name, Image and Likeness event, one of several Purdue athletes participated in during the past year since NIL went into effect July 1, 2021.
After the first year of NIL, the dollars and participation numbers generated by Boilermaker athletes won’t blow anyone away.
It wasn’t designed to.
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With a short runaway into football season, the absence of a collective and numerous questions about the rules – or lack thereof – from the NCAA when NIL started, there was plenty to figure out.
And it quickly changed and kept changing.
“It feels like it was five years in one year,” said Tom Mitchell, Purdue’s senior associate athletic director for compliance who helps oversee the NIL program.
Now that Year 2 of the NIL era is underway at Purdue, what is the expectation level since an independent collective is in place and athletes and businesses have a better understanding of the concept?
“I expect a 10-20% increase in student participation just based on merchandise,” Mitchell said.
The rapidly changing environment around NIL made it difficult to keep up during Year 1. Some businesses that joined the Boilermaker Marketplace – where athletes can arrange and negotiate NIL deals – also changed models within six months creating more questions and confusion.
It took time for the Boilermaker Alliance – a collective on Purdue’s behalf – to organize and open for business. Whatever deals the Alliance makes with athletes will factor into the Year 2 report, which will lead to a significant bump in revenue and participation. Purdue has also hired Jack Gallager as its director of NIL Engagement.
Purdue didn’t fire out of the gates with a NIL splash but took a more measured approach to see where it fits in the landscape.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into it,” said Mason Gillis, a junior on the basketball team. “I can’t really say it’s turned out how I thought it would be but it’s a positive.
“The one thing I like about Purdue – we always do things by the book and the smart way and not just jump into something. Right now, there’s a lot of conversations about what’s going to happen in the next couple of months.”
Gillis has partnered with Compete Training Academy, run by former Purdue women’s basketball standout Courtney Delks and her husband, Jordan, to help train young players and run camps. Other athletes sold t-shirts with their likeness, held autograph sessions, made personal appearances, did endorsements and promoted businesses and products on social media.
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Athletes aren’t required to connect with the Boilermaker Marketplace to arrange deals. Some have their own marketing agents, who work on their behalf to organize NIL activities. But all the revenue they earn must be disclosed to the athletic department.
“We don’t see the communication about the transition,” Mitchell said. “We see the final offer once you settle on it and that’s disclosed to the system. That’s it.”
Durham, who scored a remarkable touchdown in the bowl victory, dipped his toe into the NIL waters with a t-shirt in partnership with The Shop, which is located in Indianapolis. Otherwise, he was focused on school and football.
“It did OK; a little passive income,” Durham said “Other than that, I haven’t been doing much. I’ve been enjoying my time at Purdue and really falling in love with the work and process of it.
“One of my strength coaches said it best – ‘if you do well this season and you go to the next level there’s a lot more money than NIL out there for you.’ ”
Here are the numbers from Year 1 (as of June 21, 2022):
- 80: Athletes with unique NIL transactions.
- 15: Sports with NIL transactions
- 166: Transactions with compensation received
- $801: Average transaction value with pending compensation
- $1,044: Average transaction value without pending compensation
- $179,489: Total value of transactions
- 18: Percentage of athletes (457 total) with NIL transactions.
“I would say one of the hardest things in all of this is how do you judge it? How do you measure success because it’s constantly changing?” Mitchell said.
The largest individual NIL transaction was $35,000 under the endorsement category followed by $25,500 under internships. Camps and lessons had the highest number of transactions (32) with compensation received. Athletes and the businesses weren’t identified in the transaction section of the report provided to the Journal & Courier through an open records request.
“That, to me, is a pretty good representative level of activity and yet you have to recognize our geography, our footprint. I don’t think that’s a bad first year,” Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said.
“There’s not tremendously lucrative amounts of money or outrageous amounts of money that’s being earned here. In some cases, people have done very well for themselves. It’s an issue of personal motivation and effort and desire and in some cases the ability to have value out there in the marketplace.”
Mitchell said it will take at least three years to compile enough data to truly evaluate what’s happened, how to build out models for the future, give coaches enough information to help in recruiting and provide athletes with a better understanding of how their services are best used and in what categories.
“What does that look like a couple of years in?” Mitchell said. “We use the data to help educate the athlete on what the market is looking like, and it gives them an idea.
“They can go in and look at their fair market value and look at the averages and medium and adjust their approach. In a good negotiation, you don’t start off with a number – let them tell you.”
The experience from the first year of NIL will certainly lead to more opportunities for the athletes and also help the school shape how it looks and works in Year 2.
“For those who are interested, they have a year’s work of experience,” Bobinski said. “They know where the opportunities might be that are worth the time and energy and what’s not worth the time and energy. I would expect it would be a more productive and more focused year.”
Mike Carmin covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier and USA Today Network. Email email@example.com and follow on Twitter and Instagram @carmin_jc