‘Let’s be NIL U’: Miami’s early impact on NIL is worth watching closely

Is this how “The U” gets back once and for all?

No school has made more headlines since the implementation of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) on July 1. On Tuesday, CaneSports.com reported America Top Team, a national training academy for MMA fighters, will offer a $500-per-month NIL deal for every Miami scholarship player — a deal that will cost the company $540,000. 

Miami booster Dan Lambert, who runs the company, also created a company called “Bring Back the U.” The marketing company states it “will provide a liaison between players and sponsors to ensure all transactions are handled efficiently and in compliance with all NCAA regulations.” The website also says “100 percent of the money from donations and fundraisers will be funneled to players through local businesses.”

“Let’s try to be NIL U,” Lambert said in the interview with Cane Sports. 

“It’s all about The NIL U” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but the point stands. 

MORE: Answering the FAQs on NCAA’s NIL rules

Boosters are skipping school to go straight after the players now, and that will be a large part of recruiting in the near future. What will or can the university do in response to compete for those donations from boosters? 

Lambert has the most ambitious plan to date, and there is no guarantee it will work. There will be more passionate boosters with other plans like this at other schools. It’s going to look a lot like pay-for-play if the football team has that kind of money going through it. How high will that payroll go? How fast? 

What can the NCAA or Miami do to ensure that deals like this do not hurt the university or student-athletes? Can a company like “Bring Back the U” work with the student-athletes being the beneficiaries? Or what happens if the company goes under and is unable to pay the student-athletes? How far will this go? 

Those are the type of on-the-go questions that could have been answered if more uniform legislation had been in place before Florida’s NIL legislation went into effect on July 1.

The Hurricanes have been the most aggressive school so far in terms of NIL deals. It’s the advantage of being in one of the largest FBS markets coupled with the desire to bring back a romanticized heyday that included five national championships from 1983-2001. Miami also was last in the NCAA cross-hairs in 2011 because of a scandal involving improper benefits given by booster Nevin Shapiro. Now, the program is pushing NIL with the most flair. 

Quarterback D’Eriq King agreed to a pair of endorsement deals with College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving and Murphy Auto Group that will total around $20,000. King also unveiled a website where you can buy signed memorabilia and he’s endorsing “The Wharf,” Miami’s trendy event venue. Lambert’s deal was announced Tuesday, and there are sure to be more deals on the line. 

It’s clear to see what Miami is doing. The program is the unicorn dynasty of the college football modern era, and that was built on keeping elite in-state high school talent home. In the last five recruiting cycles from 2017-21, the Hurricanes have landed just three of the 27 Florida five-star recruits, and 21 of those recruits (77.8 percent) have gone with out-of-state programs. 

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 TOTAL
Alabama 2 1 2 0 3 8
Ohio State 2 2 0 0 0 4
Georgia 0 1 1 1 1 4
Miami 0 1 0 0 2 3
Clemson 0 1 0 1 0 2
Florida 0 0 0 1 1 2
Florida State 1 0 0 0 0 1
LSU 0 0 0 1 0 1
Michigan 0 0 0 0 1 1
Maryland 0 0 0 0 1 1

If Miami can get more recruits to shop for NIL deals close to home and stay, then that would be one way to close the gap with Clemson. That’s not the worst strategy given the program has just one 10-win season since joining the ACC in 2004. King’s deals and Lambert’s ambitious plan can’t be considered a bad thing. 

Will it work? Lambert’s deal is sure to get attention because Miami is involved, and the program isn’t that far removed from the sanctions levied on both the football and men’s basketball programs on Oct. 23, 2013. Lambert’s plan (and others like it) could be the reason NIL works — or the reason the endeavor turns into the “Wild, Wild West” and spins totally out of control.

Either way, NIL has created the perfect storm. 

It’s fitting Miami is at the center of it. 

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