In announcing its future move to the Big Ten, UCLA made a curious claim.
“This move,” wrote AD Martin Jarmond and chancellor Gene Block, “will enhance Name, Image, and Likeness opportunities.”
The two added that the “greater exposure” the school will receive on the Big Ten’s platform, as well as the coast-to-coast nature of the conference, will make their athletes even more enticing to brands.
The claim suggests that UCLA is acknowledging the importance of NIL in recruiting by advertising the conference shift as a boon for athletes’ wallets.
But it’s still unclear if the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten stage will make a real difference — particularly for Olympic sports athletes.
There is some data to suggest UCLA might at least have a basis for its statement.
- Opendorse’s first-year NIL roundup found that the Big Ten garnered not only the highest compensation of any conference, but also the most NIL activity.
- The Pac-12 ranked fourth and fifth for compensation and activity, respectively.
But while the Big Ten is leading the way on NIL, that doesn’t mean adding UCLA and USC will automatically and passively be good for their athletes. It’s possible that these numbers stem from this year’s crop of Big Ten athletes and their marketability, rather than the conference’s platform as a whole.
The claim is one made over the past year by many schools who have participated in conference realignment. But when it comes to the Power 5 shuffle, the true motivator is television contracts.
Any residual “benefits” for the athletes themselves come second.