In terms of name, image and likeness and brand-building, Pitt is most likely not going to lead the nation in big-money brand deals for its athletes. Director Heather Lyke knows that, and while she is still going to try to help the athletes out with the school’s Forged Here program, she knows the majority of athletes will probably not see much difference in their daily lives after July 1’s lifting of the restrictions surrounding the ability of student-athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses.
But how many athletes will participate in this brand-building? How many will profit off of this? What percentage of college players will this even impact?
“I don’t have a great guess on that, there have been no studies,” Lyke told reporters on Thursday. “I don’t know. Is it less than 10%? There’s probably going to be a very small number that make a big amount, but there may be others that take advantage of it. I don’t have a really great estimate.”
Pitt’s basketball team, in terms of Instagram followers, is led by Nike Sibande, who touts his 11,200 followers and a blue check mark. Compare this to Duke, another ACC school, a blue-blood, who’s entire team seems to be verified, boasting tens of thousands of followers each. Incoming Blue-Devils freshman Paolo Banchero has 75 thousand followers of his own. Joey Baker, a player who averaged 2.9 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in his junior season with Duke, has 66,000 followers. The point is, Pitt will not be affected by this nearly as much as many people think, and Lyke seems to agree.
“I’m not sure how widespread this is really going to be,” Lyke said. “I think some high-profile kids may really take advantage of it, some people that are really entrepreneurial or have strong social media followings may take advantage of it, but I’m not sure that, again, we have 500 student-athletes, I’m not sure that it’s going to impact the whole masses like that, and have a counter action against the transfer portal.”
Lyke continued to speak on how advertisements, brand deals, and social media will affect student athletes from now on. While the players will be benefitting from this and have long deserved an opportunity to profit off of their name, image, and likeness, in some cases, this may cause players to be focused on their off-the-court brand and push to the side other obligations and responsibilities. Will they pull their phone out at practice to record that once-a-week video for their company? Will they stop doing their schoolwork and focus on their brand deals?
“Coaches definitely don’t like distractions, and they don’t like being off-time,” Lyke said. “I would say that I think that is the biggest challenge with this: the real practical nature of understanding student athletes’ schedules. The amount of academics at a place like Pitt, pretty academically rigorous, the amount of academic responsibilities they have, the amount of athletic responsibilities they have, and then if they have any bit of a little bit of a social life. To think that they’re going to be working, or building their brand, and working on these entrepreneurial opportunities, it is a lot of a student athlete to manage, it really is.”