Rick Barnes Isn't Afraid To Say What NIL Has Become And Where The NCAA Needs To Go

The NCAA has a very big problem on its hands with Name, Image, and Likeness, and Tennessee's Rick Barnes is adamant that changes need to be made before this gets completely out of control. The head men's basketball coach is looking out for what's best for the student athlete, and though he wants them to make money, he worries that NIL has damaged the recruiting process.

He's got a point. NIL money is now the first thing on a prospect's mind.

Rick Barnes sat down with the OutKick 360 crew on Friday to discuss a myriad of topics, including NIL and the transfer portal. He believes that the NCAA was not prepared for what was coming in regards to NIL, and now they are paying the price.

"The NCAA made a mistake years ago. ... There’s gonna have to be changes and we know that. How that happens with new leadership coming into the NCAA, something will be done because it has to get under control."

In particular, Rick Barnes worries about the role of NIL on official visits and when discussing Tennessee with a prospect. Over the course of the last recruiting cycle, Barnes has started to see a shift. Players now presume that an NIL offer will be a part of the recruiting pitch, especially with the current money figures being thrown out.

We recently saw former Kansas State player Nijel Pack transfer to Miami and then immediately agreed to an NIL deal worth $800,000 over two years. Now, not all NIL athletes receive that kind of money. However, those with the right leverage and the right agency are, indeed, making serious money.

"Like I said, there are a lot of numbers out there that aren’t true, but some of them that are true," Barnes said. "What you don’t want to do and it has happened, a young person comes in and you’re recruiting them, they’re not even thinking about NIL, but then one school says, 'We will do this.' They’ll ask what you can do, and then that other school says, ‘We’re not gonna get beat on this NIL deal.'

"Then the agents start getting into it," Barnes added. "They start getting a percentage of what they can create, and so that’s the part where it wasn’t thought out years ago and we should’ve been able to control what we have right now, which is what it’s not.”

All Barnes wants is for NIL to be what it was supposed to be when it was first introduced: players making money off their likeness once they get on campus. Have NIL in place for them to take advantage of their play on the court and how they represent themselves, but have them choose a school for the right reasons.

We witnessed this in Knoxville with players like John Fulkerson, Zakai Zeigler and others, who were able to capitalize on how the school presented them, along with their on-court performances.

“That’s exactly what it was setup for, I don’t think it was thought through," Barnes lamented. "It shouldn’t be a part of the recruiting process, I don’t know how that works. But when you’re sitting down with a recruit, the most important thing when recruiting somebody is that they really want to come to your university for the right reasons, just like with Zakai and other teammates. I don’t know where it is right now, but where it is right now can’t stay because of the way it’s bleeding into the recruiting part of it.”

Though I believe that this is the new era of college athletics, I do understand where Barnes is coming from. The original point of NIL was to give players an opportunity to market themselves once they enrolled at a school. The money comes once you know a product is worth investing in, but all too often right now, it comes just off the 'star' factor of a recruit or transfer portal player.

It's not all about money, at least for a majority of the guys in the portal at the moment, but most of them don't have the star power to negotiate high figure deals. For Barnes and his staff, the portal is about finding the right guys for their system, staying patient and not jumping at the first prospect.

“The key is that you stay patient and don’t do something that you’ll regret a couple months later. And you can go in the portal for talent, but you have to be careful that you get the right chemistry that goes with that or it’s not gonna work.”

It's pretty easy to see where college basketball is heading if the NCAA or the individual conferences don't put some type of regulation into action. Agents will continue to negotiate big deals and insist that those aren't 'pay-for-play' deals, even though we all know that's not true most of the time. There's no way this type of market can hold for recruits or transfer portal players, when the agents are trying to set a market that is currently unknown.

But Rick Barnes looks at the future and the money being thrown around at the moment and knows a tipping point is coming.

"I will say this, the numbers that are thrown around a lot with the NIL, some of them are going to be really bad bounced checks."

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Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series. Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football "Credit Card Scandal" along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.