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Missouri's new NIL law could soon be paying dividends for the in-state Tigers

Wg0vf-nP_400x400by:Keegan Pope08/11/23


Since moving to the SEC more than a decade ago, Missouri has worked to keep pace with some of the nation’s most football-crazy programs on the field and the recruiting trail. Head coach Eli Drinkwitz pulled in the school’s best recruiting class in program history in 2022, signing five-star wide receiver Luther Burden III as part of the nation’s No. 18 recruiting class.

That was seen as a potential turning point for the Tigers, but their recruiting fell back to reality a bit in 2023 as their class finished No. 36 in the On3 Industry Team Recruiting Rankings. Headed into a pivotal year for Drinkwitz on the field, the Tigers are among the top schools for three of the state’s four highest-ranked recruits. Among them: Five-Star Plus+ defensive lineman Williams Nwaneri, five-star wide receiver Ryan Wingo and top-100 wide receiver Jeremiah McClellan.

A significant reason for that is the efforts Drinkwitz and his staff have put in on the recruiting trail. But the Tigers are also getting an assist from the Missouri state legislature. In May, the state passed a bill that would allow in-state recruits to begin receiving NIL opportunities as soon as they signed with a school inside the borders, instead of having to wait until they move to campus months later.

Missouri NIL law gives in-state programs a major advantage

And that doesn’t specifically mean they have to wait until they sign a National Letter of Intent, which can only be done after the Dec. 20 Early Signing Period begins.

According to the law, a high school athlete has the right to earn or attempt to earn compensation after signing a written agreement to enroll at a university within the state’s borders. Simply put, beginning on Sept. 1, athletes can start receiving NIL opportunities as soon as they sign a financial aid agreement with the school, which they can do at any time after August 1, except for this year because the amended law goes into effect at the end of August.

That would give the Tigers a potentially four to nine-month headstart over schools where a recruit can’t begin receiving NIL money until they enroll at the university.

“It’s a huge deal for universities when they’re recruiting kids, especially in their home state,” Kansas City-based sports attorney Mit Winter said in May when the law was passed. “Missouri obviously has a lot of talented high school athletes that in the past have gone to other schools. So, Missouri would obviously like to do what they can to keep those athletes in the state of Missouri.”

One industry source told On3 that the Tigers’ NIL resources have made them very competitive with a few the top targets they’re pursuing.

“For some of the top guys on their board,” the source added, “they’re right in the conversation or maybe even above some of the big-hitter programs that they’re competing with when it comes to the NIL opportunities if a recruit signs there.”

A factor for top Missouri targets

The opportunity to stay close to home, get on the field early in their careers, and also begin cashing in on NIL deals before they have even signed is significant to the Tigers’ top in-state targets. McClellan is set to announce his commitment on August 13, and while Simmons still leans toward him committing to Ohio State, he said Missouri is very much still involved.

Nwaneri will announce his decision the day after on August 14. Wingo meanwhile, has said he wants to take his recruitment all the way to December.

But On3 Director of Recruiting Chad Simmons says there is buzz he could decide sooner.

“With Wingo, there is buzz that the Tigers are at least in his top three, possibly even the favorite entering his senior season,” Simmons said. “Missouri is right there with Texas and the Tennessee program is still a factor as well intel suggests… The plan has been Wingo takes his recruitment the distance. But there has been a little talk behind the scenes that he could be considering a decision a little earlier.”

With Nwaneri, the Tigers have very much asserted themselves as a contender over the past few months and Mizzou’s NIL opportunities are no small reason why.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Oklahoma insider Josh McCuistion said of whether the Tigers can be a real competitor with Georgia and Oklahoma for Nwaneri. “The numbers I’ve heard, you understand. Eli Drinkwitz needs a shot in the arm [of this program] and this is perfect, you go land arguably the No. 1 player in the country.”

Added Simmons: “Nwaneri is deciding next week, and one source thinks the Tigers are the team to beat. The opportunity for him and Wingo to stay home, create NIL opportunities on and off the field now and for the future appeals to them both. Georgia is a strong player for Nwaneri and Oklahoma has been in this as long as any program. But the interest in Missouri is real for the top two prospects in the state.”