Duke Basketball Hires A GM To Oversee NIL Deals
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The Duke men’s basketball team and new coach Jon Scheyer have hired former Nike executive Rachel Baker as the team’s first-ever general manager (GM).
In addition to supporting Duke basketball players in their student-athlete career, including developing personal and professional skill sets, Baker’s duties will include overseeing name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities as they arise.
"The state of college basketball is growing and changing at an exponential rate," Jon Scheyer said in a statement. "Rachel is a one-of-a-kind talent with unique experience that will provide our players and their families with an unparalleled resource and partner as we navigate new frontiers of college basketball together.”
Baker spent eight years working at Nike and one year at the NBA, leading sports marketing initiatives across the athlete development journey. That included partnerships for Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) and also the management of strategic initiatives between Nike and NBA All-Star Kevin Durant.
"I could not be more excited to join Jon Scheyer and the entire Duke Basketball family," Rachel Baker said in a statement. "We're in the middle of such a transformative moment -- not only for Duke, but for the college basketball landscape -- and the chance to be part of it is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
My opinion on this hire is pretty simple: Duke is one of the premier college basketball programs in the country, and if they want to hold that position while legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski rides off into the sunset, NIL is a huge component—and this helps.
Here’s how The Athletic’s Duke beat writer, Brendan Marks, breaks it down:
“Because navigating the NIL world is now as much a part of his job as coaching and recruiting — and because especially at a place like Duke, it’s the sort of issue top prospects are going to want answers on. Look, Duke is always going to attract elite talent because of its brand: the NBA pipeline, the vast network, the athletic training and strength program, and of course, the coaching. That’s not changing. But in an era where schools (read: their boosters) can put together compelling financial packages for prospects — good luck re-regulating NIL framework now, NCAA — Duke can’t afford to rely solely on the strength of its brand or legacy. Hiring Baker, one of the more-connected people at any level of basketball, shows a commitment to ensuring Duke remains at the forefront of NIL.”
Marks went on to say he thinks “this is a move that will soon be emulated by all of college basketball’s top programs,” and that Kentucky is already in the hiring process.
But I like his take on the overall impact of the hire because it addresses the key point.
College sports are a (big) business, both for the schools and the athletes. And given that incentives drive outcomes, it is no longer acceptable for the top programs to rely on their history or legacy — they need to use that as an advantage in a NIL world.
Duke has the #1 recruiting class for the coming 2022-23 season and currently has the top recruiting class for 2023-24. These athletes expect to get world-class coaching and exposure at Duke while also increasing their chances of making it to the NBA. But now, they are also expecting Duke’s brand to bring six-figures-plus of monetary value.
For example, Duke’s 2022 recruiting class is worth a collective $124,000 in NIL value, according to recruiting website On3. That number will likely increase as players gain notoriety at the college level, but my guess is that it is widely understated right now.
Duke Basketball’s 2022 Recruiting Class NIL Value
Dereck Lively II ($33,000)
Dariq Whitehead ($9,100)
Kyle Filipowski ($23,000)
Mark Mitchell ($23,000)
Jaden Schutt ($26,000)
Christian Reeves ($10,300)
Duke Basketball’s 2023 Recruiting Class NIL Value
Jared McCain ($516,000)
Tyrese Proctor ($14,500)
Caleb Foster ($17,200)
Sean Stewart ($21,000)
Mackenzie Mgbako ($21,000)
Duke might have a relatively small alumni base compared to other schools—they have about 7k undergraduate students while Kentucky has 22k—but they are a national brand with a wealthy alumni base. And that combination will bring plenty of deals.
But my assumption is that Rachel will be instrumental in not only organizing and presenting new deals to student-athletes but also when it comes to recruiting, compliance, reporting, and the general management of a complex NIL world.
I think this is a really smart, progressive move from Duke. And I think many other people will ultimately follow suit. Because when we have college coaches publically telling boosters they need $10 million-plus to keep their team intact, things are bound to get messy, and having someone to keep everything tidy will be invaluable.
Have a great day, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
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