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Kenny Payne Reiterates Importance of Education, Relationships Amid Changing College Landscape

The new head coach of the Cardinals is embracing the one-time transfer rule and NIL, but is reiterating that core of what college athletics is about.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The college basketball landscape, as well as collegiate athletics in general, looks a lot different than the last time Kenny Payne was coaching in this sphere.

During the two years that he was with the New York Knicks prior to being hired as the new head coach of the Louisville men's basketball program this past March, two monumental changes were introduced: the one-time transfer rule, and the ability for student-athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness.

Both changes were long overdue, as it helped shift the balance of power in favor of the players, allowing them to finally be able to capitalize on a billion-dollar industry. While it's not perfect, especially on the NIL front, it's a step in the right direction and a much needed change.

A handful of coaches in various collegiate sports have either criticized the introduction of the one-time transfer rule and NIL, or moved on entirely from their positions.

Despite diving into a completely different landscape than even just a year ago, Kenny Payne is embracing it. That being said, he is also reiterating not only the importance of education, but forging relationships with players and those important to them.

"Kids want to be taken care of, and I'm great with that. Except I need you to know that's not why you choose a school," Payne said in a recent interview with The Field of 68's Jeff Goodman.

"You choose a school to get educated. You choose a school to reach your dreams. You choose a school to be developed, not just only court, but off the court. You chooses a school because of the people that you're going to be around every day, that they're loving people that are going to be committed and responsible for your wellbeing. If you choose a school just for NIL alone, you're going to be in that portal the following year."

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It's similar sentiment from his introductory press conference back on March 18. Then, he stated that the one-time transfer rule and NIL can be "distractions for a young kid to make where the information can get diluted," but that he was going to continue to do what he did best that made him so successful at Kentucky: an honest and down-to-Earth style of recruiting.

"I know I cannot lie to a mother and father," he said in his introductory presser. "I know I have to have high character young men. I’m going to recruit their parents. I’m not going to go into a home and try to just get the kid and not try to get his support system. ... I have to be able to have a family buy into what I’m doing. It can’t be one-sided. When I say one-sided I mean, it can’t just be about the University of Louisville. It has to be about his goals."

Of course, Payne acknowledged to Goodman that maneuvering this new landscape is not going to be easy, calling it a "moving target" with the ever-changing dynamics. At the end of the day, he believes that the best way he can navigate the unpredictable waters is to "just be honest with kids, tell them what I want and what I'm offering," and to "let them know that we care."

"We the adults, we have to educate these kids. We have to educate their parents," he said to Goodman. "We can't have them thinking that there's an easy track to success. It's not. you're fighting for your life in this world, and you got to carve out your space."

(Photo of Kenny Payne: Pat McDonogh - Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)

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