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Penn State's New AD Condemns 'Sharks in the Water' Surrounding NIL

Patrick Kraft expects the market to self-correct but adds, 'we have to protect our athletes.'
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As college athletics wrestles with everything Name, Image and Likeness legislation has unleashed, Penn State's new athletic director said administrators must address the unintended consequences soon.

"We've got to protect the athletes," Patrick Kraft said.

Upon being introduced as Penn State's next athletic director, Kraft of course was asked about the defining topic of college sports. Coaches, administrators, conferences and even legislators are searching for ways to corral what has led to "chaos" on campus.

State NIL laws that took effect in 2021 allowed college athletes to sign endorsement deals, earn money by conducting camps and clinics and otherwise monetize their brands. Like most administrators, Kraft lauded those opportunities.

But Kraft, who was the athletic director at Boston College when NIL legislation went into effect, said that outside forces have spun those opportunities in a different direction. As a result, Kraft said, NIL has spawned "sharks in the water" looking to capitalize for the purposes of recruiting.

"What I’ve learned in the past year is, there are a lot of sharks in the water, and they’re attacking," Kraft said. "We have to protect our athletes, because there’s a lot of things happening that candidly I don’t really agree with. I think the NIL legislation was great. I really do. I’m a believer in it. I think that athletes absolutely should have the opportunity to monetize their name, image and likeness.

"I do have an issue with people just calling others on rosters, offering them money and then they go hit the portal. That’s what’s happening, and we have to find a way to fix that."

Stories abound regarding how NIL has reshaped the recruiting landscape, in many ways returning it to the booster-supported world that violated NCAA rules. According to Sports Illustrated, two major conference commissioners are lobbying federal lawmakers to consider regulating NIL. Further, a collegiate task force is exploring how to limit the impact of booster-led collectives on recruiting, and college leaders are putting together new NIL guidelines.

Success With Honor, one of two Penn State collectives in the marketplace, has no plans to become involved in recruiting. Meanwhile, football coach James Franklin said that even a perfect recruiting pitch cannot match the impact of a lucrative NIL offer during the process.

"It's such a factor now that you could do everything right and do everything perfect and out-recruit everybody but you can lose a guy because of the NIL opportunities," Franklin said.

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Kraft's position on NIL mirrors that of Sandy Barbour, who is retiring after eight seasons as Penn State's athletic director.

"I am 100 percent supportive of our student-athletes having the opportunity to monetize their name, image and likeness like any other student on this campus. What I don't like is how it's been weaponized for recruiting," Barbour said on the April 20 edition of the Steve Jones Show.

Kraft begins his new job at Penn State on July 1, when the fast-moving NIL marketplace could look quite different. However, it's one of his lead priorities as Penn State's next athletic director.

"I do think the market will self-correct in the next 24 months. I think it’s inevitable," Kraft said. "But it’s one thing we’re going to have to dive into right away."

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