Syracuse Basketball: Duke legend Christian Laettner wants to scrap NIL - yeah, okay

Duke legend Christian Laettner wants to scrap NIL, a hot-button topic for which Syracuse basketball fans seem to be divided.
Duke legend Christian Laettner wants to scrap NIL, a hot-button topic for which Syracuse basketball fans seem to be divided. / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

Duke legend Christian Laettner, who to me is one of the five greatest players in the history of collegiate hoops, said in a recent interview that he wants to eliminate name, image and likeness opportunities for student-athletes - a hot-button topic for which Syracuse basketball fans have mixed feelings.

Lately, I've seen a lot of comments from my fellow Orange fans on social media and in chat rooms regarding NIL and the transfer portal. Some fans say that those two elements, among others, are ruining collegiate athletics. I certainly understand that sentiment.

Other fans say that NIL and the portal, whether they like them or not, are here to stay. They say that college programs, including the 'Cuse, have to embrace them and adapt to the ever-evolving landscape in college basketball and other collegiate sports. I'm probably more in this camp.

In any event, during a recent interview with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, Laettner sounded off on NIL and the portal. I'll say this - during his time at fellow Atlantic Coast Conference squad Duke, he won two national titles, went to three NCAA Tournament championship games, and reached the Final Four in every one of his four seasons with the Blue Devils.

Like him or not, you have to respect him. When I read his comments with Greenberg, through an article by On3's Andrew Graham, I took what Laettner said seriously, because I respect his place in college basketball. I just don't entirely agree with him here.

Syracuse basketball should be able to remain competitive in NIL due to a commercial collective supporting its players.

Here's one set of comments from Laettner in his chat with Greenberg: "They gotta take out the NIL. They gotta wipe that out. They gotta change the transfer portal. I know everyone’s saying the horse is out of the barn and you can’t take stuff back. But how can you establish any type of culture at a school when you’re getting new kids every year? That would mean every year was like my freshman year at Duke. And you’re so much better your third, your fourth year when you’re under one system, one program, one coach, one specifically defined culture. The way you want to play offense. The way you want to play defense."

Now, as it pertains to NIL, I don't see that happening. The NCAA allowed student-athletes to earn money from their names, images and likenesses beginning in the summer of 2021. The whole NIL landscape is a mess, I'll give you that, and there are ongoing legal battles.

Personally, I think that college student-athletes should have the right to earn NIL dollars. Other college students can make money through endorsements and other channels, so collegiate athletes should be able to as well.

I'll add this thought. While I can appreciate what Laettner is saying about NIL, if he played college basketball when endorsement income was available to players, are you telling me that he wouldn't have taken advantage of that? Undeniably, he was a divisive player in college, but he's also a GOAT, and I have to believe that NIL deals would have been flowing his way.

On the Hill, Orange United, a commercial NIL collective that launched last September, is working hard to raise ample funds for the Syracuse basketball program. Leaders of Orange United and its parent company, the Atlanta-based Student Athlete NIL (“SANIL”), are confident that Syracuse basketball and other 'Cuse sports will be competitive with their Atlantic Coast Conference peers and others nationwide when it comes to NIL.

Regarding Laettner's comments on the transfer portal, I totally agree with him. The portal's explosion has changed how rosters are constructed, how coaches recruit at the high school level and via the portal, and how quickly players are to sometimes bolt for a new program if they're unhappy with their minutes on the court or other factors.

I do think that players should have a right to transfer once without having to sit out a year. College coaches move around, and players should be able to as well. However, I see a lot of players moving on to a third or fourth school, and I think that's a little absurd.

The issue here is that unless the NCAA reverses course on its current transfer-portal policies, we're going to see boatloads of players transfer year after year. So while I agree with Laettner that the portal makes it hard for teams to establish a culture and identity with any cohesion from season to season, this is where we are today, and I don't see things changing.

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