The Biggest-And Surprising-NIL Deals In NCAA March Madness


With 64 teams squaring off to compete in the NCAA’s March Madness this week, a growing list of players will rake in massive sums of money in endorsement deals off the court through their name, image and likeness, a provision of a monumental decision in 2021 that opened the door for student athletes to make money while they play.
NCAA athletes are making tens of thousands of dollars on name, image, likeness deals, though they … [+] cannot receive direct payments from their schools. Getty Images
Key Facts
North Carolina’s Armando Bacot last year signed a deal with Frosted Flakes through the cereal brand’s Mission Tiger initiative, and has signed deals with Dunkin Donuts and BOA Nutrition, where he appeared in an ad on Instagram with rival Duke star Jeremy Roach (Bacot is estimated to make $930,000 in endorsements). Jared McCain, a guard at Duke, is estimated to make $1 million in endorsement deals, including partnerships with Champs Sports, RECOVER 180 and Crocs. Kansas center Hunter Dickinson has landed endorsements with Adidas and Outback Steakhouse, earning an estimated $844,000 off the court—Michigan women’s star Naz Hillmon also signed with Outback. Purdue center Zach Edey is expected to rake in $810,000 off the court through endorsements, including one deal with New York startup Daps.
Surprising Fact
Bronny James, the 19-year-old son of NBA legend LeBron James, tops the growing list of college basketball players who have landed massive NIL deals, with a 2022 endorsement with Beats by Dre, a partnership with Nike and another deal with PSD Underwear. The USC star is estimated to earn nearly $5 million in endorsements, though he will not play in this year’s tournament because the 15-18 Trojans failed to qualify.
Big Number
$3.1 million. That’s how much Iowa women’s mega star Caitlin Clark is estimated to take in through NIL deals, including partnerships with Nike and Gatorade that make her the highest-paid women’s college basketball player in the NCAA.
Millions of Americans entered a gauntlet of March Madness bracket challenges, in which a handful of organizations are offering tens of thousands of dollars to contestants with the best bracket. If any lucky contestant submits a perfect bracket, USA Today Sports will give them $1 million, though correctly choosing the winner of all 67 games has proven to be a nearly insurmountable feat, with no perfect brackets ever recorded. The odds of a perfect bracket stand at roughly one in 9.2 quintillion, or one in 9.2 billion billions, if chosen at random, according to the NCAA. Contestants with an understanding of college basketball have better odds, though they still stand at an astonishing one in 120.2 billion.
Key Background
NIL deals have become commonplace in college sports following a yearslong debate over compensation for student athletes and the philosophy of amateurism, or the idea that college athletes should compete for the sake of their university, and not for pay. While student athletes cannot receive direct compensation for their performance with their team, they can sign lucrative endorsement deals based on their name, image and likeness. That opportunity arose following a monumental 2021 Supreme Court decision in NCAA v. Alston, when the high court ruled the association’s rules limiting students’ compensation violated antitrust law. Later that year, the NCAA voted to change its rules, allowing student athletes to earn money from endorsements.
Further Reading


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