Welcome to the crossroads of the future
Last week, ahead of the 2023 regular season home finale for the Knights, social media was buzzing. Buzzing, not over the upcoming game against the Houston Cougars that could send UCF to its eighth straight bowl game, but instead, buzzing over “Name Image & Likeness,” better known as NIL.
The Knights did win their contest against the Cougars on Saturday, by the way, and will be bowl eligible for the 2023 season. UCF should know its bowl destination sometime this week or next.
But back to NIL – The college football landscape has changed greatly in recent years. Conferences have shifted and some have even disappeared (RIP WAC). On top of that, schools and student athletes must now juggle NIL. Name Image & Likeness is a new and ever evolving aspect of college athletics.
For UCF, the primary NIL organization is The Kingdom NIL, LLC. The Kingdom does not fall directly under the UCF Athletics Association. Instead, it works alongside UCF to generate donations, which then go to student athletes. In essence, this is financial compensation for athletes.
Because The Kingdom NIL is a separate LLC, it is not required to follow the same Florida Sunshine Law rules as the university, and therefore it’s considered a private organization. It has an Executive Director and a Board that oversees the LLC’s operation. Adam and Trace were able to interview The Kingdom NIL’s Executive Director, SJ Tuohy, last week on the Sons of UCF LIVE show.
According to The Kingdom’s website, 90% of all donations go to the student athletes while the remaining 10% is utilized for operating expenses. Do with that information what you will…
NIL has been a polarizing aspect of college athletics since its introduction. Some UCF fans have embraced the idea and others are more skeptical, either of The Kingdom or NIL in general. With little regulation, some are calling this the “Wild Wild West.” Schools are paying large amounts of money to star athletes.
You can argue that it benefits the “blue blood” schools with deep pockets more than smaller, younger schools. Combine that with the complication of the transfer portal in NCAA football, and you can quickly see how sticky things can get for student-athletes and coaches, with so much money exchanging hands behind closed doors.
In many respects, NIL is becoming pay-for-play. Is it amateur sports anymore if (some) athletes are getting paid large sums of money? We’re blurring the lines between college athletics and pro sports, in my opinion. Is there any allegiance to your school anymore if money is driving the bus? I think we’ll see more and more athletes follow the dollar signs in the coming years if things don’t change. And you can’t blame them, either. They are doing what is best for them in the system that is in place.
Coach Malzahn and his staff have had to quickly adapt to the NIL world and the transfer portal. The Knights will see additions to and transfers out from the team during the offseason, rest assured. NIL doesn’t affect just football, either. It’s a factor in all sports.
Regardless of your affinity for NIL (or lack thereof), the transfer portal, and all the new facets that have shown up in the college athletics world as of late, there’s no denying that UCF is going to have to keep pace if they want to stay relevant.
The one thing that’s for sure at this point is that in its current form, NIL is divisive. Expect NIL to drive college athletics and teams’ successes on the field/court. It’s going to have major consequences for the NCAA in the coming years.
Ultimately, your decision to contribute to NIL is up to you. There is no “right or wrong” answer. Everyone is a fan in their own way, it’s not for me or others to judge how you support your school and sports teams. I’m a football season ticket holder, I donate annually to the ChargeOn Fund, and I’m a member of The Kingdom NIL. Not because I love NIL or anything, but because I love UCF and want the Knights to have the funds necessary to secure the best talent to win games. UCF is a young school and is going to have to fight to keep up with the likes of the Alabamas and Ohio States of the college world.
Now, that’s not to say that you don’t love UCF if you don’t donate to the Kingdom! Don’t misunderstand. There are so many ways you can be a good fan and ambassador for the Knights. In fact, some make valid points that in many ways, NIL is taking money away from the university, as people are having to split their donations if they choose to donate to NIL and other school funds. It’s an interesting thought that’s food for another day.
Remember, at the end of the day, we’re all Knights and we all want what’s best for UCF! Take care of yourselves and remember that we all do our parts for UCF in different ways.