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Big Ten coaches respond to Ryan Day's $13 million challenge for NIL

Andy Wittry07/28/22
Article written by:On3 imageAndy Wittry

AndyWittry

Ryan Day by Birm -- Lettermen Row
Ryan Day and the Buckeyes will head to Big Ten Media Days on Wednesday. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

INDIANAPOLIS — “Wow.” “Good luck.” “I’m impressed.” “If it takes that for us to have a good team, we’re going to be in trouble.” “I need half of that and I’ll be OK.” Each of those remarks was reaction from separate Big Ten football coaches regarding Ohio State coach Ryan Day‘s June comments to members of the Columbus, Ohio, business community that it will take $13 million in NIL compensation for the Buckeyes to keep their roster together.

On3 surveyed 11 other Big Ten head coaches at Big Ten Media Days.

“I believe him,” said Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst. “They’re good. You know, we’re all navigating the new world. But Ryan’s going to put thought into it, and I think every school’s going to have a little different approach to it.”

The coaches’ responses included emotions such as shock and awe. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck laughed, then said, “Wow.”

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald did the inverse. He said, “Good luck,” then laughed.

“Good luck,” he said, two more times.

“Yeah, I’ll take 13 [million dollars],” deadpanned Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. “Sure. Sounds good.”

Some coaches took it as motivation. How could their school’s fan and donor base and local business community find a way to raise the same amount? Can they find a way to raise even more in the future?

James Franklin said Penn State must do same to compete

After Fleck laughed and said, “Wow,” he thought through Day’s statement aloud.

“We got one of the best coaches in the country at one of the best programs in the country saying that,” Fleck said. “Not only just ‘Wow. That’s different than we’ve heard before,’ but ‘OK, so how do we go do that?’

“And I think it immediately turns into how does college football change to make sure that happens? I think that’s the world we’re all kind of living in right now where this sand hasn’t settled to the bottom yet with everybody answering the questions about what everybody’s opinion is of transfer portal, NIL, pay for play, all this conference realignment. Still hasn’t settled yet.”

Penn State coach James Franklin was asked a similar question in June at a local media availability, and he provided a similar response at Big Ten Football Media Days. That level of NIL investment is required to compete at the highest level of the sport.

“If we want to compete with the schools not only in our conference but also nationally, then we must be willing to do similar things,” Franklin said. “You can’t have it both ways. The commitment must match the expectations and vice versa.”

Jim Harbaugh said Michigan could double that amount

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he thinks the Wolverines’ players could earn more than their archrival through NIL.

“My thoughts were, ‘I think we can do more.’ I think maybe we can even double that eventually,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s possible and I think it’s going in a terrific direction that way. You know me, I’ve always been for NIL. I believe players should have a share in the revenues and I think that’s something that’s really possible at Michigan.”

Harbaugh went on to advocate for football players to earn a share of the conference’s media rights revenue, ahead of the Big Ten finalizing media rights contracts projected to be worth more than $1 billion annually. Harbaugh suggested the conference could pay players NIL deals for appearing on TV broadcasts.

“They’re the one signing the mega TV deals and a new one’s coming in 2024,” he said. “Why can’t that be a NIL deal right from the Big Ten?”

Kirk Ferentz said Iowa is in trouble if $13M is required

Other coaches admitted that $13 million in NIL compensation for their football players in too high a bar for them to reach.

“I know this, if it takes that for us to have a good team, we’re going to be in trouble,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “I don’t see that in the near future unless you want to go over 10 years. Count that over 10 years. That’s just a whole different level for me.

“That’s kind of like [when] I got thrown in calculus with analytic geometry first semester at Connecticut and that second semester was a disaster. So that one’s calculus with analytic geometry for me. I don’t understand a word Dr. Rasmussen was saying up there, like I was totally lost.”

Fleck said, “I don’t think that would be what keeps my roster intact yet.”

Purdue‘s Jeff Brohm added, “Well, I think that each team is at a different aspect when it comes to NIL. You want to use it to your advantage to take care of your players.”

Ohio State and Northwestern have played in the Big Ten Championship Game twice in the last four seasons. The Buckeyes defeated the Wildcats 22-10 in 2020 and 45-24 in 2018.

Yet the two programs are admittedly very different.

“That’s not our roster,” Fitzgerald said of Day’s $13 million target. “It’s so cool, we’re in the same conference. We competed on this field twice and we couldn’t be more different programs in that one little sliver of a variable.”

Maryland coach Mike Locksley‘s response was simple.

“I said, ‘I need half of that and I’ll be OK,'” he said. “I can probably get some good players with half of that $13 million.”

Where did Ryan Day get the $13-million goal?

So, where did Day get the figure of $13 million?

On3 asked him.

“When you look at Ohio State and you look at where we’re positioned with the city of Columbus, the companies that are in Columbus, the brand of Ohio State, Ohio State football, the fan base, you can see that the potential’s off the chart,” Day said. “So, what you try to do is figure out what’s going on out there. Now when you mix in, you know, collectives across the country, when you mix in the one-time transfer rule, you have to do the best you can to project out what you think is right for your team.

“We’re going to be great advocates for our players and we’re going to be aggressive. A lot of teams are being aggressive out there. We’re going to do the best we can to project that out and every day it kind of changes as the landscape’s changing, but we’re going to try to do the best we can to project that out.”

Day was blunt about his players’ financial success in the first year-plus of the NCAA’s NIL era.

“Literally the last year, our guys have done exceptionally well, and really the way Name, Image and Likeness was put into place is what our guys have done,” he said. “They’ve made a lot of money off their name, image and likeness.”

How much has NIL impacted Ohio State football players?

“Shoot, my mama’s bills getting paid now,” quarterback C.J. Stroud said. “You know what I mean? It’s just amazing for me just to be able to provide for my family at 20 years old.”

There’s uncertainty of how to quantify NIL targets

Like many NIL-related questions, there’s a lot of uncertainty due to the push and pull of transparency and privacy. Maybe the NIL Education and Information Center’s initiative to create a centralized database of anonymous NIL activities could provide clarity to the landscape in the future.

“I’m impressed,” Ferentz said of Day’s comments. “I don’t know how you know those numbers or quantify those numbers. I really do believe there’s a lot of exaggeration on some of this stuff right now, but only time will tell. Or will it?

“Because I don’t know how public any of this stuff is going to be so it’s really interesting — it’s so different than the NFL, where everything is documented and everything is tracked and what have you.”

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said we’ll know more about the intersection of NIL and roster construction in 2023.

“That’s a large number,” Tucker said. “We’ll have to see. That’s the thing about NIL and recruiting and the current roster and what it’s going to take, we really don’t know yet. It’ll be interesting to see like a year from now, how is it affecting recruiting? How is it affecting the roster and all the questions about inequities on the roster?”

“That’s his words not mine,” Illinois coach Bret Bielema said of Day’s comments.

Perhaps Fleck summed it up best.

After a laugh, a couple of exclamations of “Wow” and a thoughtful response about where the sport is going, he concluded his response with, “A lot of things are just guesses right now.”