Tuesday December 5, 2023

Sports Pipeline Ripple Effect

  • The NFHS fears that high school sports will be changed forever if athletes can profit off NIL using their athletic status.
  • NIL could make the NCAA-to-pro pipeline more enticing for players previously considering pre-professional routes.
Photo: Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun/Design: Alex Brooks
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For the first time, some high school athletes can profit off their NIL beginning as early as high school.

The development raises fundamental questions about high school sports as well as the professional basketball pipeline.

Amateurism Blues

The NFHS supports NCAA athletes capitalizing on NIL, but is against athletes doing so at the high school level if it relates to their sports.

Why? Niehoff believes high school athletes are too young to be professionals.

She also said NIL in high school will cause “a real erosion of the very special culture that is a high school locker room, and is high school sports where kids are equal, they’re about the team, they’re about development, it’s about community, it’s about connection with the coach, connection with the school.”

She believes athletes who want to pursue NIL in high school should play for club teams that aren’t affiliated with traditional high school associations.

Proponents of NIL in high school, however, have noted that these arguments were also trotted out at the NCAA level. But in college sports, those fears haven’t materialized.

Changing the Calculus

When it comes to men’s basketball specifically, there are routes to skip the NCAA on the way to the pros than ever before, as FOS College reported in April. 

But players can also start profiting their freshman year of high school — and continue making money into their NCAA careers. 

Perhaps this will weaken the pre-professional routes, since athletes won’t have to choose between the NCAA and NIL profits. Or, it could give athletes a taste of making money at a young age — and entice them to chase salaries as well. 

And there’s one other question, too: A select number of athletes, like Mikey Williams, can now potentially make millions during high school and college. Do they even need to play professional basketball to get rich?

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