Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Miami Vice: Hurricanes' hoop drama has implications for all, Sooner football included
Sooner coach Brent Venables is fine with players earning some 'short-term' NIL cash, but what about six- and seven-figure deals, because they're coming, too
We can breathe easy.
Isaiah Wong will not be entering the transfer portal.
His situation remains as it was.
He’s put his name in for the NBA draft, while maintaining his college eligibility.
“Glad Wong didn’t enter the portal,” John Ruiz tweeted. “This is a great youngster and his mom is amazing.”
Everybody can relax.
Of course, around here, few know Wong and fewer still Ruiz.
Nonetheless, the rest of Ruiz’s Twitter message, issued Friday, might hint at the relevance of their little 48-hour drama, not just for University of Miami (Fla.) basketball, but for a nation of collegiate athletic programs on the court, field, diamond, you name it.
“… The deal remains the same,” read the rest of the tweet, “however, as I said day one I will help him get other NIL deals.”
The implications of their drama could reach here, there and everywhere.
Not to mention, it might well have been the lure of NIL riches that had a certain Sooner quarterback distracted last season, leading to his since becoming a Gamecock.
Wong averaged 15.3 points for the Hurricanes, who finished a victory short of the Final Four this past season. He averaged 17.1 the previous season and 7.7 two years ago.
A fine player, but no superstar, because superstars don’t play three years of college basketball, let alone four.
Friday Wong chose to stay out of the portal. Thursday it looked like he might jump into it because of something Adam Papas, who represents him for name, image and likeness deals, told ESPN.
“If Isaiah and his family don’t feel that the NIL number meets their expectations, they will be entering the transfer portal tomorrow,” he said.
Papas may have been bluffing. Or, given what he said, may have torpedoed his client’s chances at finding a new program.
“Isaiah would like to stay at Miami. He had a great season leading his team to the Elite Eight,” Papas also said Thursday. “He has seen what incoming Miami Hurricane basketball players are getting in NIL and would like his NIL to reflect that he was a team leader of an Elite Eight team.”
Ruiz is the CEO of LifeWallet, who on Thursday said a deal’s a deal, sorry, he wouldn’t renegotiate Wong’s agreement.
It’s where we are.
It’s where we’re going.
It’s not good:
The agent of a college basketball player demanding the renegotiation of an NIL contract, prepared to hold the program for which he plays hostage.
It defies credulity.
Wong’s no superstar. Miami’s a successful program, but no blue blood. Papas made a market argument trying to put more money in his client’s hands as though that’s par for the course in college sports.
It’s so gross, Ruiz comes out looking like the hero, yet the billionaire Miami booster is very much the problem, only too happy to brag about the money he’s throwing around Miami’s basketball program.
April 23, he announced on Twitter, “The biggest LifeWallet deal to date, two years $800,000.00 total at $400,000.00 per year plus a car,” for Kansas State transfer Nigel Pack, who averaged 17.4 points his sophomore Wildcat season.
It’s almost enough to make you empathize with Wong and Papas.
There are those who tell you deals like this will ruin college sports, allowing boosters to buy national championships.
There are those, like me, who stubbornly believe that if the motivation’s the dough, you’ll eventually pay for it in lack of performance and results, coming up short in the end.
Still, around here, all might wonder how the new paradigm will work at Oklahoma, particularly in coach Brent Venables’ football program, about to enter the best and most crooked conference in the history of crooked conferences (with the possible exception of the old Southwest Conference).
“Typically, with the right guys, that’s not one of the first, second, third things that is discussed,” Venables said last December, during an early signing day press conference.
Given his performance that day and beyond, eventually landing a top-10 class, Venables would appear to have been proven right. Still, one wonders how long his idyllic sentiments can last as a recruiting philosophy.
“There’s nothing wrong with some short-term cash. There can be a lot of good in that,” Venables said. “I do think you have to look at the long term investment opportunities … in terms of education and [development]. That’s going to have more of a generational change than a little short-term money.”
No arguing that.
Still, try telling it to 17-, 18-, 19- and 20-year-old athletes, who see others like them receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars — not exactly “short-term cash” — to go where a booster’s telling them to go, where they’ll be signed up the moment after enrollment.
Maybe the Sooners could win that game, too. But should they ever have to, they’ll be a lot less fun to cheer.
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