Syracuse Basketball: Top teams have around $2M in NIL; Orange United has similar target

Top programs have annual NIL budgets of around $2 million, and Orange United has a similar target for Syracuse basketball.
Top programs have annual NIL budgets of around $2 million, and Orange United has a similar target for Syracuse basketball. / Greg Fiume/GettyImages

A recent media report indicated that the annual name, image and likeness budgets at top programs in power conferences hovers around $1.5 million to $3 million, and Syracuse basketball appears to be in line with that target amount.

On3 national analyst and scout Jamie Shaw recently published an illuminating article where he talked to various college coaches across several leagues about roster construction, NIL and the transfer portal.

Since the transfer portal opened this past Monday and will run for 45 days, the topic of roster construction, NIL and the portal is certainly top of mind in college basketball, even as the 2024 NCAA Tournament is just getting underway.

According to coaches whom Shaw spoke with, annual NIL budgets for collegiate hoops in the power conferences can range from roughly $1.5 million and up to $3 million.

If we’re looking ahead to the 2024-25 season, that generally aligns with what Orange United, a commercial NIL collective that launched last September, is targeting for the Syracuse men’s basketball program, according to leaders of this collective.

Syracuse basketball seems to be on par with others nationwide in NIL.

I caught up by phone on Wednesday with Mark Hayes, who is Orange United’s general manager.

For 2024-25, his collective is targeting an NIL budget for Syracuse men’s basketball of $2 million to $2.5 million, Hayes said. Regarding Syracuse women’s basketball in 2024-25, he said that Orange United is eyeing a $1 million NIL budget.

The Orange women’s hoops team, I should note, has put forth a terrific 2023-24 stanza, with the ‘Cuse earning a No. 6 seed in this spring’s NCAA Tournament. SU’s first game in the Big Dance will be this Saturday.

It’s important to stress here that Orange United provides NIL deals across all Syracuse Orange sports, although the basketball programs are without question a top priority for this collective.

I did ask Hayes about how much money Orange United has raised for the Syracuse basketball teams for next season, and he declined to provide specifics, in part because the collective has various fund-raising campaigns and initiatives that are ongoing.

When Orange United launched last September, it had signed a deal with multi-media rights company LEARFIELD to be an official partner of, and the preferred collective for, SU Athletics. Orange United is managed by the Atlanta-based Student Athlete NIL (“SANIL”), which operates dozens of commercial collectives nationwide.

There are at least two other entities in existence for which I'm aware that are also involved with NIL as it pertains to 'Cuse student-athletes. One is Athletes Who Care, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that formed in the summer of 2022. Another group is focused on Syracuse football, and it is called SU Football NIL.

When it comes to the Syracuse basketball programs, however, Orange United does appear to be the collective leading the charge for NIL deals with 'Cuse players.

Although the 2024 NCAA Tournament is currently underway, college basketball coaches have already started to think about their rosters for next season, given that the transfer portal is open for business.

Interestingly enough, one coach from a Big East Conference school told On3’s Shaw that “NIL is the single biggest factor in the criteria prospects now use to pick a college,” ahead of other factors such as playing time, conference affiliation and a team’s particular playing style.

That just goes to show you how NIL and the transfer portal have changed the landscape in the sport of college basketball.

While the general “consensus” seems to be that major-conference programs are likely to have $1.5 million to $3 million in annual NIL dollars, a coach in the Big 12 Conference said to Shaw, “A full starting five, to be serious, cannot be done for less than $1,000,000.”

Those are some serious dollars. By extension, coaches from various power conferences said to Shaw that the average starter can expect to earn NIL of around $150,000 and even up to $200,000.

An Atlantic Coast Conference coach summed it up this way: “You cannot have enough money to compete in the portal.”

Coaches said that if we’re talking about NIL in college basketball, top big men can often prove the biggest earners.

A coach from the Southeastern Conference told Shaw that big men “usually command more because of supply and demand.” Besides big men, quality point guards seem to be the highest NIL earners, some coaches say.

This next quote is interesting. Regarding NIL, a coach in the SEC said to On3 that while things vary by situation, “I would say that transfers are the highest earners on the team. Then returners second, and high school recruits third.”

I can understand if high school commits would fall to No. 3, since they’re unproven at the collegiate level. But I’m at least a little surprised that transfers might command bigger NIL dollars than players already on a specific squad’s roster.

Then again, programs may have to spend more on a transfer, because the best transfers are in ultra-high demand and likely will be receiving many NIL offers from potential suitors.

Already, Syracuse basketball (on the men’s side) has seen several of its players hit the portal. More could follow. The ‘Cuse coaching staff will be mining the portal to possibly bring in transfers of its own to fill out the team’s 2024-25 roster.

It’s encouraging that Orange United, if we’re talking about college basketball, has the ‘Cuse in a position to compete with its peers in the Atlantic Coast Conference and around the country.

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