The NCAA’s Division I Council is set to meet on June 22-23 to discuss name, image and likeness proposals regarding student-athletes, with July 1 seen as a possible effective date to align with the seven states that have already passed legislation on their own NIL rules going into the 2021-22 athletic year. The specifics remain unclear, but the push for student-athletes being able to profit off themselves is stronger than ever.
If and when these rules are passed, John Calipari believes the Kentucky program will be able to benefit the most of anyone in college basketball, and the numbers are there to back that up.
“Obviously, we have to wait to see exactly what the rules state,” Calipari said back in May. “But no one should be able to do it better for men’s basketball than our program. Two years ago, TV-wise, our ratings before the pandemic would have ranked fourth in the NBA – Golden State, the Lakers, Cleveland with LeBron (James) – would have been above our ratings. So, all the social media stuff and all the stuff we do, and we can do, in my mind it should be the best in the country.”
UK assistant coach Jai Lucas says the program is preparing for the inevitable, a change he wholeheartedly supports. If the NCAA ultimately decides to pass the NIL rules, as expected, Lucas is prepared to put his players in the best position to not only make money, but do it the right way.
“It’s going to change everything. It’s a new thing, something you’ve never had to deal with, giving players the ability to make money off of their name, image and likeness,” Lucas told KSR. “We can’t have a lot to do with it. The biggest thing as a staff is that we’ll have to be sure everyone is equipped with the rules of what we can and can’t do, what they need to do to be able to do things, stuff like that.
“Giving them the ability to do it with the rule most likely passing is great for them, it’s something they can do on their own. It’s not tied to the university, not tied to anything, so if they’re able to do it, they should do it. For us, it’s about making sure they do it the right way and not doing anything that will get them in trouble.”
Like Calipari, Lucas understands that Kentucky will be a prime landing spot for student-athletes looking for a school to boost their brand and capitalize the most off name, image and likeness rules. The program isn’t using that as part of its recruiting pitch quite yet since the NCAA has not officially passed the legislation, but they’re certainly prepared if and when that day comes, likely sooner rather than later.
“We haven’t used it yet and it’s something we’re really not talking about until the rule passes, but a lot of people are talking about it because it seems inevitable,” Lucas told KSR. “For us at Kentucky, we understand how big a platform and how big of a brand we have, especially in college basketball. So for someone who really wants the opportunity to enhance their brand on the biggest market, we feel that’s what we are and what we have to offer.
“We really don’t know what that means yet because we haven’t been through a year of it yet and don’t know what it looks like, but we feel like with what we have and how many times we’re on TV and stuff like that, it’s something we should really be able to use.”
Change is coming in the world of collegiate athletics, and Kentucky basketball is prepared to capitalize on the opportunity.