Duke AD Kevin White supports Bubba Cunningham’s concerns on NIL

Last week, North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham spoke out critically against the NCAA and possible adjustments to student-athlete business model via name, image and likeness (NIL). Cunningham voiced a variety of fears, including the risk of college sports becoming professionalized.

Cunningham started that his concerns were supported throughout college athletics, too. Well, one of those voice of supports appears to be Duke Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White.

On Tuesday morning, White released a statement, which was also sent out on the Duke Athletics Twitter account.

On face value, White’s concerns are market-driven: would a shift in the model disrupt things enough to negatively impact recruiting, or redirect resources away from non-revenue/Olympic sports? The validity of which is up for debate. (This also presupposes that there’s a level playing field when it comes to recruiting in certain sports, too. That’s not actually the case.)

Will it create a wide-open marketplace in which institutions solicit businesses or boosters to offer ever-escalating endorsement deals to a star high school quarterback or point guard?  Will resources from equipment, apparel, and shoe companies be redirected to a relatively few individuals rather than being shared equally among the lesser known, but no less valuable, Olympic sports?  How will it affect the locker room in which the vast majority of student-athletes go uncompensated?

White, however, is aware of the optics, which less than ideal: gatekeepers of the sport looking to ensure the status quo is maintained. According to White, the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has also expressed worries over “unintended consequences” due to NIL. These could be genuine concerns. However, some will read this as cherry-picking support. (One could equally argue that non-revenue sports stand to benefit a great deal with an adjusted model.)

Public perception on this matter has shifted; plenty of Americans, including college students, believe college athletes should be paid. According to Yahoo Finance, Seton Hall Sports published a study that saw 60 percent of its respondents (N: 714) say that college athletes should be allowed to profit off NIL.

In the Seton Hall poll, results were, unsurprisingly, split along age demographics: 80 percent of those surveyed between ages 18 and 29 support paid endorsements. However, only 50 percent of people above age 60 are in support.

Interestingly enough, of this one poll, 59 percent of the respondents believe that the NCAA should be the governing body to oversee the initiative. Less than 30 percent believe it should be up to state governments, which ironically, is something that Cunningham would agree with.

After years of resisting federal intervention, the NCAA is in the process of seeking an antitrust exemption for NIL. According to Cunningham, though, Congress, if anything, would prefer to hear from the schools and conferences.

That said, there are deadlines on horizon, rapidly approaching. On July 1, 2021, Florida’s NIL bill will take effect. The state of California has NIL rights coming, too, in 2023. Without some form of macro-level progress, more state-by-state legislation could also be in the works, too.


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