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Football skill players lead NIL earnings, according to new Opendorse data

Photo credit: USC Athletics

Only a few weeks into the college football season, and NIL is officially in its second season.

As various NIL services continue to pop up, many are providing crucial information from their brands and athletes, giving a snapshot of what the marketplace looks like.

On Tuesday, Opendorse publicized a data set revealing where NIL transactions are taking place, as well as who has separated themselves as part of the upper echelons of NIL.

While Opendorse is reporting data solely through their user-base, their network of over 90,000 athletes makes them one of the largest NIL marketplaces in the space.

So who has ruled the NIL space since its inception?

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While there are some obvious answers, the biggest eye-opener has nothing to do with men’s vs women’s sports, or even conferences for that matter, but who lines up where on the field or court.

Despite quarterbacks being the talk of the town more often than not — think Alabama’s Bryce Young and Caleb Williams of USC — it’s the running backs who top the football field with an average $2,265 per NIL deal, edging the quarterbacks by a slight, but still meaningful, $25.

Wide Receivers are also a hot commodity, earning $1,523 per deal, followed by defensive lineman ($917), offensive lineman ($864), and linebackers ($845).

On the hardwood, guards in women’s hoops dominate, earning just over $2,000 per deal. The next closest grouping are centers making just $637.

This largely thanks to the myriad of top guards, most notably UConn’s Paige Bueckers, who recently signed a deal with Bose and is projected to make over $1 million in NIL, a figure 13x higher than what the most recent No. 1 overall selection in the WNBA Draft, Rhyne Howard, made in her rookie campaign.

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Among the men, guards actually rank last at $1,204, with forwards edging out big men earning $1,720 and $1,446 per deal, respectively.

The Big Ten Conference leads the NCAA as the most compensated conference, followed by the Big 12, Pac-12, and Big East. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) rounds out the top five, with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) shortly behind.

As far as the most activity by conference, the Big Ten maintains top spot, but some movement occurs with the Pac-12 moving up one spot over the Big 12 and the Big East conference ranking eighth in that category.

Much of why the Big East ranks lower in activity is due to their lack of a football conference, but is made up by the immense talent pool, led by the aforementioned Bueckers.

It’s no surprise that football is the top dog in the NIL universe, but the percentages paid out to athletes based on sports is staggering.

Football players make up just below half of all NIL deals (48.6%), followed by men’s (17.7%) and women’s basketball (13.5%).

From there, the number dips significantly, with women’s volleyball coming in as the fourth most paid out sport (2.4%). The rest of the top ten dip below 2%. Interestingly, softball outperforms baseball, and sports such as men’s swimming & diving and women’s gymnastics make the list.

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Just like conferences in terms of activity, there are some discrepancies. Women’s volleyball outpaces women’s basketball — 6.2% to 5.8% — and baseball finished as the fifth highest in activity despite being seventh in total compensation, edging softball by a hair over 1%.

Among male vs female compensation, the overall split is roughly 60-40 in favor of men, but split by division, the lower the competitive level, the more women tend to carry more weight, with women in Division III making up almost 40% of NIL, as opposed to just over 25% at the Division I level.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), a smaller association than the NCAA, sees women earning the majority of NIL deals at 55%, almost doubling NCAA Division I.

As far as those who are buying these NIL deals, the data shows that 90% of deals are brokered with brands.

Social media posts are the favorite among deals, making up 40% of all compensation activities. Roughly 55% of all deals on the marketplace come from this medium.