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Despite Its Best Efforts, USC Is Struggling With NIL Reputation

  • USC has worked hard to develop an NIL program that is above-board.
  • But rumors and outside donors have already threatened that reputation.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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USC has worked hard to develop a reputation in the NIL era of being completely above-board.  

But the past few months have threatened that image.

The saga at USC illustrates that despite a school’s best efforts, the NIL era has largely ripped control away from departments. Now, they have to grapple with outside entities paying current — or even prospective — players. 

USC tried to get ahead of this dynamic. It worked with an outside agency to develop a group called BLVD that would be available to athletes as an NIL agency. 

  • The organization was above-board because it was only available to current athletes, and therefore couldn’t be considered one that offers recruiting inducements.
  • It also was separate enough from the school that it satisfied a California state law saying the department itself couldn’t be involved in deals.

But shortly before the announcement of the program’s launch, rumors swirled that USC had somehow “tampered” with wide receiver Jordan Addison, who had transferred from Pitt. Though the rumors were unsubstantiated, they still made both local and national headlines.

Now, there’s another potential complication: A group of disenchanted boosters are planning to launch an NIL collective aimed at paying football players “the equivalent of a base salary,” the LA Times reported.

The new collective reportedly has no plans to push the NCAA’s boundaries. It will not get involved with recruits — instead only offering deals to current players in exchange for charitable activities.

But there’s always a risk that an outside collective could make a wrong move and jeopardize a school’s — or its athletes’ — reputation. 

Despite the complications for USC officials, the athletes themselves will benefit.

The NCAA has made it clear that if it does enforce NIL rules, it will go after the schools rather than the players. So far, no state legislature has looked to punish its own local athletes for violating rules.

For players, there’s no downside if more money is being thrown their way.

USC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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