Williams, Krzyzewski know college basketball must evolve on NIL, but solutions need time

Brant Wilkerson-New

CHARLOTTE — Roy Williams doesn’t know exactly what the ACC, NCAA and the University of North Carolina need to do about name, image and likeness rights for college athletes, but he knows they’ve got to do something.

“It’s something, we don’t know what the crap it is,” he said on Tuesday at ACC Operation basketball. “It’d be like putting me in charge of our nuclear weapons. The best answer is that it’s not supposed to be here until 2023 and I hope I’m on the right side of the divot in 2023. There’s no question we’ve got to move quicker than we have been.”

Williams’ comments echoed that of many since California passed a law allowing student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness beginning in 2023. Currently forbidden under NCAA rules, players would be able to have their own endorsement deals, like starring in local commercials, signing autographs or licensing their identities for use in video games like the popular NCAA Football series.

There’s also the longtime practice of college programs raking in profits off the backs of their athletes by selling jerseys that just happen to feature the number of a star player, sans a name on the back.

Carolina eliminated the practice in 2016, instead only licensing jerseys that feature the Nos. 1, 23, 89 and the number of the current season. Currently, those jerseys represent football players Myles Dorn, Khafre Brown, Austyn Chestnut, Drew Homschek, Javon Terry, Josh Henderson and Gray Goodwin. For basketball, Leaky Black wears No. 1.

Several times, Williams has referenced Peyton Manning’s No. 16 jersey at Tennessee.

“I think his last year, they sold 50,000 of his jerseys at $70 a pop and he didn’t get one nickel,” he said. “That’s not right; I don’t care which way you look at it, that’s not right.”

Several schools have similar jerseys on policies, while others have continued to profit from their stars.

Currently, Fanatics.com features a Clemson jersey with No. 9, which  coincidentally belongs to Travis Etienne, retailing for $132.99. In addition to Nos. 1 and 19, there are several youth options for Trevor Lawrence’s No. 16, selling for $57.99 and $47.99 a pop.

Additionally, Fanatics features “game-used” jerseys and equipment, with a pair of Oregon football gloves selling for $62.99.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is in agreement with Williams, and took things a step further, issuing a full statement to the media after previously lobbying for NIL rights for players.

Mike Krzyzewski has been outspoken about the need for college basketball to evolve. Jeremy Brevard | USA TODAY Sports

And like Williams, he believes change has to come, but the answers aren't necessarily clear.

“I don't — and won't — pretend to understand all the complexities of such a change,” Krzyzewski said. “However, it is a sign of the times that we in college athletics must continually adapt, albeit in a sensible manner. While we have made significant progress in recent years, we have not always responded to the needs and rights of our players swiftly, and frankly, we're playing catchup after years of stagnant rules.”

Therein lies the challenge.

Where Krzyzewski and Williams both acknowledge a change is necessary, they both realize there’s a small mountain of details that need to be worked though.

“Yes, I’m concerned about it,” Williams said. “Yes, I think it could probably cause some differences on your team, but at the same time, I think a lot of those things need to be done.”

Whether the issues are real or perceived, there’s a belief that NIL rights will benefit certain programs and conferences more than others. Hypothetically, the lure of an endorsement deal with a local business at one program might lead elite recruits to sign somewhere and even further skew the landscape of college athletics toward power programs.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford pointed back to cost of attendance legislation, which allowed schools to provide a stipend to student-athletes covering travel, school supplies and living expenses beyond their scholarships.

Because of the difference in value in those stipends, there was a belief it could become a game-changer in recruiting or it could negatively impact Olympic sports.

“Neither of those scenarios happened, neither one of them,” Swofford said. “You don't hear a word about either one of those at this point in time. So that's what I mean by sometimes I think we have a tendency to stake a position and not be open minded about what the possibilities are to provide it even, and I think our athletes have a tremendous experience and opportunity in today's world, and it's been improved in recent years.”

But, Swofford, like the two hall of famers, admitted there’s an awful long way to go in an assessing how NIL can be fairly instituted.

“Right now, I mean, quite frankly, I think there are a whole lot more questions than there are answers,” he said.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford says they'll have to be open-minded about about name, image and likeness legislation.Jeremy Brevard | USA TODAY Sports

Since California’s law passed, 13 more states have started the process of adopting NIL legislation, which leads to perhaps the only thing that Swofford and Williams believe to be certain for this process.

"I don’t think the way to address and solve this is by individual state laws,” Swofford said. “I don't think that really gets us to a good place ultimately. It probably pushes the envelope in terms of stressing the system to really focus on this and see if there's an answer that can work…”

While lawmakers might ultimately force the hands of the NCAA, it’s the belief of Williams that true change can only come from within.

“I hope that we get it where the NCAA membership — not the NCAA — but the membership makes the rules as opposed to our politicians,” he said. “They’ve got enough things to worry about themselves. They need to figure out how to go across party lines and get one damn compromise in their lives.”