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Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh weighs in on NIL: ‘Do we know if it’s broke yet?’

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos07/27/23


INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Harbaugh may not be the most versed in the recent rush of Congressional NIL legislation. 

Speaking at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday, however, the Michigan head coach delivered a simple stance on NIL. Oh, it may not have been on the recent bipartisan bill from Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Joe Manchin. But it was a contrasting tone compared to many in college sports. 

“It’s here, and it’s so new,” he said. “Give it a chance to work. We don’t know if it’s broke. Do we know if it’s broke yet? And we’re already trying to fix it?” 

The comments come against a polarizing backdrop. Through the first two years of college athletics’ new era, many stakeholders in the college athletics sphere have lamented the shortcomings of NIL. New NCAA president Charlie Baker has been joined by conference commissioners, athletic directors and coaches on Capitol Hill in recent months, pushing Congress to enact an NIL mandate.

For better or worse, NIL has sent an influx of cash into athletes’ pockets. Most NIL activity has come through NIL collectives – a collection of boosters raising funds – with inducements in recruiting and the transfer portal. 

Cheating in college football is not novel. Former Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt was handed a six-year show-cause penalty earlier this month for “hundreds” of NCAA violations. Those include one player’s family receiving $7,600 for down payments on a car and rental property. Plus, $500 a month for a car payment on at least 25 occasions. 

Those numbers are pennies on the dollar compared to the tampering and pay-for-play the collision of NIL and the transfer portal has caused in the sport in the last two years. Jaden Rashada, a highly-touted quarterback in the 2023 class, was offered $13.85 million to play for Florida. Similar stories have populated from the transfer portal. 

Harbaugh’s peers have used this as evidence for Congress to assist the NCAA in enforcing NIL. The coach of the back-to-back Big Ten champs is not ready to give up on it just yet. 

“NIL is so new and it was voted 9-0. Supreme Court, 9-0,” said Harbaugh, referencing the 2021 Alston decision.  “It’s like the transfer portal. These people that are against it. You’re against something that allows a young man and his family to decide where he wants to go to college. And where he wants to continue college. Where he may want to go to college next. 

“Why be against that? And the players and their families, they’ll tell you – I think if you really studied it, then there’s more good there than negative.”

Jim Harbaugh updates Champions Circle’s NIL efforts

Former Michigan fullback Jared Wangler launched the Michigan-focused Champions Circle collective last June, with a vision to bridge the work with his he works his sports marketing agency, Valiant Management. The collective formally launched back in April, and Harbaugh has emerged as one of its most vocal supporters.

Earlier this week, the head coach released a video next to J.J. McCarthy endorsing the efforts. Wangler has become a leader in the NIL space, as Champions Circle recently became a founding member of The Collective Association.

Fans can join Champions Circle with subscription packages ranging from $10 to $500 monthly. Each tier comes with an annual option, too, with different perks included. Receiving support from Harbaugh only brings more attention to the collective to the donor base and benefits athletes.

“Things are coming along,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “It’s so new, and I think it’s coming along. I love to see what they’re doing. I love to see how they’re attacking it. They deserve a pat on the back, too. They do a great job.”