Keeping Score: Wild, wild west days of NIL

Published: 1/20/2023 9:13:12 PM
Modified: 1/20/2023 9:12:55 PM

Good morning!
The NCAA’s decision to replace Mark Emmert with Charlie Baker is a belated attempt to close the Pandora’s box it opened when it allowed players to benefit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). “The major goal for 2023 is to get help from lawmakers in D.C.,” insider Matt Brown told ESPN’s Paul Finebaum.

Baker showed his ability to work both sides of the aisle as a two-term Republican governor in deep blue Massachusetts. His task is to convince lawmakers to pass federal legislation that would supersede state laws and end the NCAA’s interim policy. Only a handful of states have passed legislation regulating NIL — Alabama passed and quickly repealed a bill, fearing it would negatively impact recruiting. A bill was introduced a year ago in the Bay State, but pols are waiting to see which way the wind blows.

This era will be remembered as the wild west, with athletes and business people wheeling and dealing uninterrupted. Naturally, the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabamas of the world are cutting the biggest deals. On3 of Brentwood, Tenn., tries to evaluate every player’s “brand value” by combining his or her performance, influence, and exposure. Arch Manning of the regal Manning family tops the college football freshman class with a $3.6 million brand value. Manning has committed to play for the Texas Longhorns.

The only glitch is that with the wild, wild west comes the great unknown. This week on Ross Tucker’s CollegeDraft podcast, Tucker asked draft analyst Emory Hunt why Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud had declined a reported $10 million NIL offer and declared for the NFL draft. “A lot of it’s like crypto, funny money,” said Hunt. “Players wonder, ‘Is it as much as they say it is? Are there stipulations? Can I get it as soon as I sign? It sounds fickle, so they go pro and get the sure money.”

UMass booster Pat MacWilliams who owns Five College Movers has formed an NIL group. The Massachusetts Collective is a strength-in-numbers startup that seeks to form partnerships with men’s and women’s basketball players. “Right now I’m focused on educating potential members and recruiting more people to get involved,” he texted. “We’ve signed four athletes so far including Tafara (Gapare) and Sam Breen from the women’s side. I’m excited about the impact we can have on UMass athletics.”

“Pat’s been a huge supporter of athletics for a long time and I think he wants to and is making UMass better,” texted John Kennedy, a major contributor. Kennedy’s been waiting almost a decade for a UMass basketball team to live up its billing on the training facility, the John Francis Kennedy Champions Center.

Asked if he’d be willing to contribute NIL money for a five-star quarterback he emailed: “It’s not worth spending a huge amount on any single player and expecting he can transform UMass football. It’s unrealistic. Don Brown’s doing the right thing using the transfer portal and finding “marginal” players at Michigan and Clemson who can be winners at UMass.”

As an example, Kennedy mentioned quarterback Taisun Phommachanh of Stratford, Conn. who prepped at Avon Old Farms in Simsbury, Conn., and is headed for Amherst after short-lived stints at Clemson and Georgia Tech.

MacWilliams says that Gapare’s NIL deal is worth over $10,000. The 6-10, 200-pound native of Wellington, New Zealand, has been stateside for a year and played for the South Kent School (Conn.) Development Team which has sent five players to the NBA under coach Raphael Chillious. On3 ranked Gapare as the 86th-best schoolboy recruit in the class of ’23.

Breen has established a nonprofit she named Turbo Treats for her dog Turbo, with proceeds to help the Dakin Humane Society. “We’ve sold over 100 bags of Turbo Treats so far,” said MacWilliams. “She doesn’t have a big market, being a senior, but she is someone you want to represent the Collective. She’s all class, and the charitable aspect speaks volumes about her character.”

Earlier this month at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Baylor president Linda Livingstone said that as it stands now, NIL is “deeply and profoundly misguided.” Livingstone, who chairs the NCAA’s Board of Governors, wants the NCAA to establish “common sense rules without limitless threats of litigation.”

Many observers claim Emmert dropped the ball by failing to foresee the coming of an NIL apocalypse. “Mark Emmert drove the bus off the cliff,” said Brown, who publishes a daily newsletter called “Extra Points.”

John Kennedy concurred: “Emmert should be arrested for fraud for all of the work he did.”

Consequently the NCAA hopes Charlie Baker can convince Congress to establish a level playing field. “The NCAA is putting its chips on the table,” said Brown. “Governor Baker speaks politician and will build relationships.”

What are the odds? asked Finebaum.

“Greater than zero,” Brown answered.


The crystal ball that Marty Maroon gave me to predict a 22-win season fogged over after Christmas. After a 9-3 start against a respectable group of non-league opponents that’ve gone a combined 110-94, the Minutemen have lost four of six by an average score of 80-72.

In a taped interview at halftime of the URI game, coach Frank Martin tried explaining to Jay Burnham why UMass was slumping. In a peculiar and unexpected twist he said of the blowout loss at St. Bonaventure, “Rahsool (Diggins) was really playing good for us. Then he, we’re human beings, he made a choice in life. He and his girlfriend decided to have a child and the child was born the day before the St. Bonaventure game so he was away from our team for three or four days. It’s complicated.”

Martin didn’t say if Diggins had informed him of the baby’s pending arrival, but imagine if he hadn’t: “Hey Coach, Rahsool won’t be here.”

“Why not?”

“His girlfriend just had a baby.”

Somewhere upstairs, Jack Leaman is laughing.

Martin gesticulates wildly during games as if he’s conducting the War of 1812 Overture. Hoops fan Gary Maynard got his first glimpse of it against URI. “They brought some energy but boy oh boy do I wonder about that coach. He just seems to be angry with everything and everyone until he gets on the radio – then he seems like a priest after Mass, so sweet.”


SQUIBBERS: Trevor Lawrence went to a Waffle House after the Jags’ historic comeback against the Chargers, shades of Tom Brady in his age of innocence. … Virginia Tech’s sports information office released a video clip of Springfield native William “Pop” Watson arriving at Hokie Nation last weekend. “Me and my mamma just moved into my room,” said the Commonwealth’s Gatorade Player of the Year. … The San Jose Sharks traded John Leonard to the Nashville Preds last summer for former Minnesota Wild first round pick Luke Kunin and a third-rounder. Leonard, who had four goals in 58 games in two seasons at San Jose, is waiting for the call-up and has six goals in 36 games for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. … Had to laugh at Miami Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle’s remark, “We know this city has been through so much.” Yeah, but nothing blue skies and 80 degrees won’t cure. … New York Giants radio analyst Carl Banks after a Giants TD against Minnesota: “That was a sucker-born-every-minute play.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at


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