Iowa basketball players eagerly await start of NIL: 'We always hoped it would come'

Later this week, the college athletic landscape will change completely. On July 1, collegiate athletes will be able to profit from their name, image and likeness for the first time. 

On Monday, the NCAA Council recommended an interim NIL policy to the Division I Board of Directors. Last Friday, the University of Iowa announced its partnership with a third-party company INFLCR to help athletes with this new phase. The new department is titled "FLIGHT." 

For years, this day was only a dream. Soon for college athletes like Iowa's Keegan Murray, it's a reality. 

"We always hoped that it would come," Keegan Murray said. "Obviously, I think it came sooner than what we would've thought but overall I feel like this is a huge stepping stone for the NCAA and college athletes.

"... There's going to be a lot of opportunities for athletes to build themselves especially big influencers that you see in the college game right now. They'll be able to expand their brands leading into their professional careers." 

In Iowa, where there is no state law guiding NIL rights, the recommended NCAA policy would have the state's four Division I schools create their own policy around the issue of athlete endorsements. The interim policy will protect athletes' amateurism that are outside of those states until federal legislation is created or the NCAA passes its own.

Administration reaction:'Here we go': Iowa AD Gary Barta says school will maximize NIL value for athletes

One Iowa men's basketball player in particular, veteran Jordan Bohannon, has been outspoken about athletes being able to profit from their names. He was one of several athletes who met with NCAA president Mark Emmert about this matter during the 2021 NCAA Tournament, along with Iowa women's basketball star Caitlin Clark. 

"It's the next step in the NCAA developing," sophomore forward Kris Murray said. "I think Jordan being on our team and being how outspoken he is has really helped us all in learning about it. Just to be as outspoken as he is, is going to be big for our team, not just him." 

Iowa forward Keegan Murray speaks to reporters during a summer Hawkeyes men's basketball media availability, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Prominent players like Bohannon are expected to be at the front of the line on Thursday announcing potential partnerships with the personal brands they've established. Bohannon is already planning a merchandise line. Younger players like Keegan Murray, who serves on the university's student-athlete council, will utilize the school's FLIGHT program before making any decisions. 

"I just need to learn more about it," Keegan Murray said. "I don't really want to jump right into NIL and just jump into every opportunity I can get. I want to be able to manage myself and have the best image that I can have." 

Recently, highly-touted high school basketball stars have opted away from college in favor of playing professionally overseas or for the NBA's newly created G-League Ignite team where players can earn up to $500,000 in a season. 

Iowa's Tony Perkins hopes that with NIL, top high school talent will gravitate toward the NCAA. 

"It's great for the game, great for college basketball," Perkins said. "A lot of kids play and be like 'Dang, I can't do this or I can't do that' because you can't do anything about your image and likeness. It really opened up a lot for college players. 

"... Now they can look at the other side and say I can earn from my image and likeness."

Kennington Smith is the new Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com