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Jay Bilas says ‘NIL has made college athletics significantly better’

Jay Bilas
Photo credit: Duke Athletics

ESPN’s Jay Bilas has always been a pro-NIL lifer.

From the get-go, the college basketball analyst has been on the side of the athlete when it comes to the ongoing name, image and likeness debate that transformed the college sports landscape in July 2021.

In a Twitter post earlier in the week, Bilas reaffirmed his belief in paying college athletes, saying “NIL has made college athletics significantly better, but athletes deserve the ability to bargain for their full economic value.”

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Appearing on Stuck In My Thoughts, a podcast hosted by Auburn All-American track runner Justin Stuckey, Bilas continued to discuss the positive effect name, image and likeness has had on the college sports landscape.

“I think it’s made the game significantly better.” Bilas said. “The NCAA has always said that athletes are students to be treated like any other student, and they’re just students who happen to be athletes. Well if that’s true, then athletes don’t have anywhere near the rights any non-athlete student has.”

Bilas continued: “A non-athlete student here at Auburn could be on full scholarship and write a book that’s a bestseller and make a million dollars, and they’d be celebrated for it. It wouldn’t affect their status as a student, they still have to turn their papers in on time. Same thing for a student at Stanford who writes some code that they can sell to Google or something, or start their own company, they can do all kinds of things. The fact that not every student does that, and monetizes their ability level while they’re in college doesn’t mean that nobody should be allowed to do it.”

Bilas also mentioned that aside from compensating athletes, it has had a positive effect on athletes continuing their education, which both supports the athlete and the school.

“It’s helping retain players longer. We’ve seen both football and basketball players that might have left to go pro come back to school. I think that benefits the athlete, but it certainly benefits the school.”

However, Bilas believes more can be done. 

“The players deserve it, and they actually deserve more. They deserve their full economic value, or at least to bargain for it in my view.”

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And more can be done.

At just over 18 months old, there is still a long way for NIL to go. As the NCAA – nor the federal government – have yet to take action in controlling name, image and likeness policies across both the college and high school landscapes, the NIL boom has turned itself from a revelation to a revolution.

Athletes have created a “free agency” like feeling around recruitment and transfers. Players can grow a personal brand and become international stars. The examples are endless. And until things can be controlled, athletes will continue to forge opportunities for themselves and eventually have the opportunity to be compensated for that full economic value Bilas mentions.