Clemson basketball star PJ Hall will soon begin working in partnership with Carolina Miracle League, a charitable organization based in his hometown of Spartanburg that’s spent the last 15 years giving children with mental and physical challenges the opportunity to play baseball.
In exchange, Hall will be compensated an undisclosed amount through TigerImpact, Clemson’s first known name, image and likeness (NIL) collective. Hall is one of several athletes across multiple sports at the university that have already signed on with the group, which has raised more than $5 million to be paid out to athletes for the promotional work they will be doing with a charity of their choice.
“So far, (Clemson) has done everything great with us,” Hall said of the collective. “This new NIL collective is definitely huge and will definitely even the playing field a lot for South Carolina schools, whether that be us, (South) Carolina or even Coastal Carolina or something like that. … It’ll change the landscape of it for sure.”
It’s not stopping there.
At least one other local third-party group is in the process of being formed to pay Clemson athletes through NIL deals, a trend that’s been popping up at schools across the country after the NCAA adopted an interim policy last summer to make profiting off their name, image and likeness legal for participating athletes.
In comparison to some schools, Clemson is late to the party. TigerImpact, which was started by three former Tiger football players, didn’t announce the formation of its collective until last week, the same time the school revealed its NIL educational program. The timing is well behind some of Clemson’s Power Five counterparts that already had collectives and other third-party fundraising efforts in place in the NIL space.
At Texas, a non-profit charity organization revealed in December that it will pay $50,000 to each of the Longhorns’ offensive linemen as part of an NIL program. A collective at Tennessee has agreed to a deal with a 2023 blue-chip recruit that could end up being worth as much as $8 million. South Carolina had at least one collective set up before last week as did some of the schools Clemson recruits against in the ACC, including North Carolina and Florida State.
As Clemson’s head football coach, Dabo Swinney’s players likely stand to cash in the most on NIL opportunities given the immense popularity of the sport. Swinney said he figured NIL collectives were coming at Clemson and that the inclusiveness of the one in place is a positive development for all of the Tigers’ athletes, but Swinney didn’t voice an opinion one way or the other on the impact NIL opportunities could have on the Tigers’ ability to continue recruiting top-tier talent.
“I don’t think anything about (collectives). I just focus on coaching my team,” Swinney said. “I think that whatever is out there, it’s a natural progression. If one school has a good chef, the other school is going to get a good chef. If one school has three strength coaches, the other school is eventually going to get three strength coaches.
“If (the athletes) have got an opportunity to do something on their own and on their time, good for them. My focus is what’s going on when they show up and preparing our team. And then making sure they’ve got the resources they need to help navigate those external things.”
Men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell was more expressive with his thoughts about how NIL opportunities could affect his ability to build and maintain his future rosters. With collectives existing at more high-major programs than not – and some of them funneling more money to athletes than Clemson can – Brownell said he doesn’t know if it’s going to be enough to elevate the Tigers’ recruiting efforts in terms of the caliber of prospect they’re able to sign, but he acknowledged Clemson had to get in the NIL game in order to keep his program from being at a disadvantage.
“It’s necessary,” Brownell said. “(NIL opportunities) is part of what people are looking for now, an opportunity to build off their name, image and likeness. I think it’s terrific that we have Clemson people that have put that together and are going to be able to help the student-athletes as they can. I think it’s cool what they’re doing with charities. I think that’s really a neat piece. But it’s definitely part of what’s going on in the recruiting world right now, and if you don’t have something of that nature, it could hurt you in certain situations.”
Hall agreed with that sentiment, adding that simply knowing NIL opportunities are available at Clemson could help the program not only lure prospects on the front end of the recruiting process but also keep them from transferring later in their career.
“I think that’s a possibility,” Hall said. “Obviously you can get stuff anywhere you go, but I think the way Clemson takes care of people, it’ll definitely be a big help for us.”
Meanwhile, every NCAA member is waiting to see if an umbrella policy ever emerges from college sports governing body or the federal government. The NCAA didn’t implement uniformed rules for every school to follow when its NIL policy went into effect, leaving it up to each state to adopt its own NIL laws.
Some states’ laws are more aggressive in what they allow than others, including South Carolina. Earlier this year, though, the House of Representatives passed a proviso that would temporarily suspend the state’s NIL legislation for one year beginning July 1. During that time, the NCAA’s policy would govern the parameters of NIL deals for South Carolina’s college athletes. It would also give the state a chance to amend its current bill or wait for uniformity from the NCAA or Congress that would eliminate discrepancies from state to state, the latter of which is far less likely.
The provision isn’t official yet. It still has to get through the Senate and then get a signature of approval from Gov. Henry McCaster. But fellow basketball player Hunter Tyson said he’s liked watching Clemson and the state take more proactive measures when it comes to NIL, which he believes will help the Tigers’ athletic programs remain competitive moving forward.
“If you have a state that’s allowed to be more involved in their players’ NIL opportunities and then Clemson wouldn’t be able to be as involved, then it can put us at a disadvantage a little bit,” Tyson said. “It was a great job by Clemson’s athletic department and our state government to (start the process to) lift that legislation to even the playing field.”
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