With NIL in place, Clemson might need its small town more than ever

With NIL in place, Clemson might need its small town more than ever

Football

With NIL in place, Clemson might need its small town more than ever

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One of the things that makes Clemson so alluring to anyone who visits is the size of the town.

The city of Clemson is truly a college town in every sense of the word. When school is not in session, the town holds just a little more than 16,000 residents.

The main street of downtown runs right into Clemson University. Only two major highways lead into Clemson, and it sits about 20 miles off the interstate. No one comes to Clemson by accident.

But as great and alluring as Clemson is as it sits on the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina, will it be detrimental in the high-stakes world of college recruiting where the stakes are even higher with the new name, image and likeness laws that went into effect on Thursday.

“You get into the size of a school, enrollment, the alumni base, geography … We are a college town here, where other schools are more in urban environments,” said Clemson’s Deputy Athletic Director Graham Neff. “Is it better to be a college town, where we are the biggest deal in town – Clemson Athletics, Clemson Football and Clemson basketball? We are a big deal.

“But if you are at Georgia Tech, my alma mater, it is really saturated. There are professional sports – Falcons, Braves, Hawkes, whatever. But there is more marketplace. There are more opportunities. So, I am really curious to see how it unfolds with the big fish in a small pond or maybe a medium fish in a big pond, whatever analogy you want to go with.”

On Wednesday, the NCAA changed its bylaws, allowing student-athletes the ability to make money off their NIL. The state of South Carolina followed suit, as Attorney General Alan Wilson certified the bill and put it into effect on Thursday.

These measures will allow Clemson to compete in the ever-changing-landscape of recruiting, but will schools with bigger alumni and in bigger cities have an advantage when it comes to offering student-athletes more opportunities?

“Maybe there are places in the middle that have a pretty big area, but not as saturated, like Louisville, Kentucky or Columbus, Ohio, where there is not much of a professional presence, like Atlanta, for example,” Neff said. “Being an athlete at Louisville is actually a bigger deal.”

Clemson’s living alumni base is about 150,000, much smaller than some of the schools it competes against for some of the top recruits in the country. Neff says, more than ever, it is imperative that the city of Clemson and the surrounding communities are engaged with what is going on in college athletics.

Like Clemson Athletics needs the city of Clemson, the city of Clemson needs Clemson Athletics, too.

“This is live now and we want you to be active and engaged as a community. We want you to know you can have conversations and partnerships with our student-athletes,” Neff said.

The good news for Clemson is larger schools are not allowed to recruit and entice student-athletes with promises of big money and endorsement deals while they are in high school.

“It is very clear, any recruiting inducement will cause eligibility issues,” Neff said. “That is one of the things the NCAA has continued to draw a hard line on, so that is where we have to have a lot of compliance.”

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