Three letters have changed college athletics forever: NIL (Name Image and Likeness). And while many sports fans have focused on its effects on college football and men’s basketball, it’s affecting women’s basketball, too. The most straightforward way to articulate it is that some women’s basketball coaches are capitalizing on NIL and being aggressive in its benefit to their program.
Take, for example, LSU head coach Kim Mulkey. She is in her second year at the program and already has the commitment of the No. 1 player in the 2023 class, Mikaylah Williams. What’s unique about the commitment is not that Williams committed to the Tigers; it’s the fact that she committed in June and never took one official visit. One might state that it’s because she’s from Louisiana.
And while that’s not something to ceremoniously dismiss, the nostalgia of home, here’s data showing that it’s doubtful that was the determining factor. Of the top-22 players in the country by ESPN (all 5-stars), the ONLY one staying in their home state is Williams.
Ask yourself an honest, objective question: When was the last time the No. 1 player in women’s basketball didn’t take not ONE official visit?
Based on the last decade, at least, it’s never happened. Why? Because before NIL, it would make no sense for the best player in the class not to explore other options. AAU coaches would never want their top player not to vet other programs. So what made this situation different?
Come on, don’t be naive: NIL! With the lucrative NIL opportunities out there, do you think it was prudent for Willaims to commit so early and not create any leverage? That’s financial malpractice. So clearly, Mulkey utilized, and rightfully so, NIL to her benefit to land the game-changing guard. To find out more, become a member of our Super VIP Insider.
An excellent article in The Athletic talked about Mulkey and stated, “Mulkey’s also the figure who can sell as well as anybody in sports. She’s a master at raising money, a star at rotary club meetings, a reporter’s dream at news conferences.” Did you catch the most crucial line in that quote?
“She’s a master at raising money.”
Mulkey has been aggressive with multiple fundraisers, connecting with boosters to be at the forefront of capitalizing on this newfound toy called NIL. But let’s digress a little bit. Do you remember the viral video of Alabama head coach Nick Saban pleading with boosters to contribute more money so they could continue to sign the best players in the country?
"Nick Saban is a GENIUS. … Nick Saban was telling Alabama boosters to join the new world! Saban wasn't really ripping everyone else."
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) May 19, 2022
Saban went on that rant with boosters to get them to spend more money so that Alabama could stay at the pinnacle of college football. Even though the Crimson Tide is a blue-blood program, a winner of multiple national championships, and the sport’s gold standard, Saban is not resting on the laurels of nostalgia to get players; he’s maximizing every tool at his disposal to stay on top.
Circling back to women’s basketball, even Miami, who is not a powerhouse, is boldly utilizing NIL with booster John Ruiz.
— John H. Ruiz, Attorney at Law (@JohnHRuiz) April 22, 2022
Now, if the Hurricanes utilized NIL for the Cavinder twins, can you imagine what they would do for the top players in the country?
Remember when Mulkey created a first-of-its-kind position called Director of Player Personnel and Influence?
We felt this is a necessary step to provide our student-athletes with a first class experience as we help them navigate their NIL opportunities. Jennifer is perfect for this position! #NILSU https://t.co/6J1i9lLiji
— Kim Mulkey (@KimMulkey) July 1, 2022
The LSU head coach is looking to maximize the NIL and get every advantage over her peers — especially in the SEC.