Syracuse basketball finalizing deal to play in 2025 event with millions in NIL payouts

A deal is "expected to be finalized soon" for Syracuse basketball to compete at a 2025 event providing lucrative NIL payouts.
A deal is "expected to be finalized soon" for Syracuse basketball to compete at a 2025 event providing lucrative NIL payouts. / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A deal is "expected to be finalized soon" for Syracuse basketball to compete at an event in 2025 that would provide participating schools with millions of dollars in name, image and likeness ("NIL") payouts, I've learned from Jason Belzer, who is the founder of the Atlanta-based Student Athlete NIL (“SANIL”).

Matt Norlander and Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports published a detailed article on this event, noting the Orange in their piece. The event, to be called the "Players Era Festival," would be held in Las Vegas and would commence this November with eight squads that would each receive $1 million NIL payouts, with the winner or winners of this tournament being awarded "in the neighborhood of another $1 million."

According to CBS Sports, the eight-team field for the 2024 event will include Alabama, Houston, Notre Dame, Oregon, Rutgers, San Diego State and Texas A&M. The final school is still being determined.

Per Norlander and Dodd, a 2025 tournament, should it occur, would likely expand to 16 teams, with those engaging in discussions about possibly playing in 2025 including Syracuse basketball, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan and Virginia.

In mid-March, Amanda Christovich, a sports business reporter with Front Office Sports, first reported on the development of the Players Era Festival.

SANIL operates numerous commercial NIL collectives around the country, including the one that launched last September to support all 'Cuse sports, Orange United.

On Wednesday, Belzer said to me via text message that a deal for Syracuse basketball to play in this Las Vegas tournament in 2025 is "expected to be finalized soon." He noted that SANIL helped facilitate the deal on behalf of Orange United and Syracuse.

Syracuse basketball is expected to play in a lucrative event in 2025.

The CBS Sports story says that most, if not all, of the teams planning to suit up at the Players Era Festival in 2024 would play in the event in 2025, if the tournament extends beyond the initial year, as many of the expected 2024 participants "have already signed up for a three-year agreement."

An official announcement regarding the Players Era Festival could come in the next 10 days or so, Norlander and Dodd report. They note that tournament organizers continue to evaluate whether, in 2024, they will have a single eight-team field or two separate, four-team multi-team events ("MTEs").

More from the CBS Sports piece: "The tournament would be unique in that the NIL collective of each participating school would be paid $1 million. Additional significant NIL opportunities (believed to be in the neighborhood of another $1 million) would be awarded exclusively to the winner or winners of the event, depending on the final bracket format(s). The money would then be distributed to athletes by the collectives. The athletes, while in Las Vegas, would be required to participate in multiple off-the-court activities to earn that NIL money. That quid pro quo agreement for NIL money is a key distinction and at the core of the appeal of the festival. Pay-for-play remains against NCAA rules. However, athletes can be paid for NIL work surrounding the actual games, which is the pitch here."

While a broadcast deal for this event hasn't yet been secured, the CBS Sports writers say that tournament games "are expected to be distributed on a streaming service instead of traditional linear television."

Another interesting tidbit here is that players who suit up in the Players Era Festival would be eligible to land a "10% equity stake in Players Era in perpetuity." What that means is that if this event is successful and continues to operate in the years to come, college basketball players could earn ongoing income.

Since current NCAA rules don't allow college teams to play in the same MTE more than once in four years, CBS Sports reports that organizers of the Players Era Festival "are intentionally attempting to break off different MTEs with different names to be played at different Vegas arenas in an effort to bring many of the same teams back for multiple years while technically staging them in separate events."

Assuming Syracuse basketball finalizes its deal and this event does transpire in 2025, this would prove a terrific opportunity for the 'Cuse program to boost its NIL coffers.

Last September, when Orange United launched, it signed a deal with multi-media rights company LEARFIELD to be an official partner of, and the preferred collective for, SU Athletics, Belzer told me at the time.

In March, Orange United general manager Mark Hayes told me that his commercial collective was targeting an NIL budget of $2 million to $2.5 million for Syracuse men’s basketball in the upcoming 2024-25 season.

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