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How does NIL consider Clemson football rookies?

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney speaks during a press conference for the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 21.  7, 2022, in Hollywood, Florida.  Clemson will face Tennessee in the Orange Bowl on December 2.  30. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney speaks during a press conference for the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 21. 7, 2022, in Hollywood, Florida. Clemson will face Tennessee in the Orange Bowl on December 2. 30. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)


Prior to committing to Clemson football in June, he was a four-star defensive end AJ Hoffler interacted with dozens of Power Five schools on the recruiting track.

And it didn’t take long, he said, to realize that the Tigers were a bit of an anomaly when it came to name, image and likeness. How?

“They don’t pay the kids,” Hoffler said.

Clemson’s message to Hoffler throughout his recruitment was clear: football was “the main thing”, the sport that had already brought him this far, and they wanted it to continue. No distractions.

Unlike other pitches he said he’d heard, Clemson’s was a straightforward and engaging approach.

“Just do your thing on the court and the money will come, the NIL deals will come,” Hoffler said. So it’s not like they’ll pay you. They do no such thing. It’s one of the few schools I know that doesn’t.

As Clemson prepares to sign the No. 12th recruiting class in the country This was the overriding message among 2023 recruits on Wednesday: While other college programs may be looking at fee-for-service setups under the guise of NIL — which is prohibited but rarely, if ever, enforced according to NCAA guidelines — the Tigers run safe from such effects.

“That’s integrity,” said Tyler Brown, a three-star receiver recruited near Greenville. “That’s what got me there, for sure.”

Quarterback Christopher Vizzina, one of 19 four- or five-star prospects among Clemson’s projected 25 signings, agreed. NIL wasn’t a taboo subject when he was recruited – the Tigers have made various moves in this space since last summer – but it wasn’t the first game either.

“In short, they’re doing it the right way,” Vizzina said.

In college football in particular, the past year has been a constant drizzle of paid beef: coaches at smaller programs complaining of tampering, others characterizing the sport’s offseason as glorified free agency, Nick Saban of the Alabama said Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M program, one of its SEC West rivals, “Bought all the players on their team.”

Just this week, UNC coach Mack Brown said quarterback and reigning ACC Player of the Year Drake Maye ‘turned down a lot of money’ to stay with the Tar Heels instead of transferring elsewhere. He declined to say which schools had approached his QB about a transfer.

“I can’t tell, and don’t ask Drake,” Brown said. “You know who they are. Look at everyone who recruits all the best recruits.

Photo by AJ Hoffler
Westwood Academy (Ga.) four-star defensive end AJ Hoffler signed to Clemson this summer. Cory Fravel 247 Sports

“The Last Thing Clemson Talks About”

Hoffler, who is from Atlanta, said the concept of paying for play through NIL — often set up by alumni-run collectives — came up a few times during his recruiting. The same goes for many of his high school football friends across the state of Georgia, where he is, as usual, loaded with elite talent in the class of 2023.

“I know a bunch of schools that have,” Hoffler said. “But you can see throughout the season, the schools where the kids went there just for NIL, it doesn’t always work out. (Often) they left in the transfer portal. Clemson just wants to do things the right way.

Speaking at the ACC Football Pre-Season Media Days this summer, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said NIL “hasn’t changed our approach at all, other than adding a something more that we need to have answers for and talk about when people come in.” … It’s not something we lead with. It’s the last thing we talk about.

The long-serving coach acknowledged this approach could hurt Clemson with a handful of elite rookies from year to year, but insisted “I don’t want guys coming for the NIL.” What if a player asked Clemson what the school could do for him, financially, when recruiting him?

“Yeah, we won’t,” Swinney said.

Brown, an in-state wide receiver who signed to Minnesota before moving to Clemson in November, said that’s how the Tigers gave him NIL opportunities. The chance to make money as a college athlete wasn’t the main course. It was more of a sweetener.

“It really had nothing to do with my decision,” Brown said. “I go to Clemson for the program and the real coaching and consistency there.”

At the same time, he said Clemson has a “great NIL program” that he and other athletes can use. In April, the university launched Reign, a major project Branded by athletic director Graham Neff as the “next generation” of Tigers name, image and likeness programming.

As part of this initiative, the school is building the Clemson Athletics Branding Institute, a self-contained space for NIL activity including photo studios, video studios, multi-purpose office space and other assets. It is the first of its kind in the country, according to the school.

In terms of personnel, the Clemson athletic department employs a NIL administratora senior NIL coordinator specifically for football and seven other employees whose jobs are at least partially related to specific efforts at NIL, according to information obtained through a public records request.

Thanks to a clarification of NCAA policy, Clemson has also been able to more directly endorse NIL collectives over the past two months. In the final two home football games of the school season, Neff and Swinney appeared on the video board to name TigerImpact and Dear old Clemsonthe two most important Clemson collectives, and encourage fans to donate.

“The path we need to take has never been clearer,” Neff said in November. 21 video to fans, adding that the Clemson Collectives “need your support to help provide meaningful NIL opportunities for our student-athletes. We do things the right way – the Clemson way – with integrity as non-negotiable, and we fully support the mission of these groups.

Christopher Vizzina Clemson
Christopher Vizzina is one of six Clemson commitments that rank among Sports’ 247 Top 150 for the Class of 2023. The Tigers are expected to sign a Class of 25 players on Wednesday. Jason Caldwell 247 Sports

‘Earn the Right’ at NIL

Vizzina, the second highest ranked signer of Clemson’s 2023 recruiting class to No. 39 nationally behind five-star DT Peter Woods, is well aware of the opportunities available to him at university.

But he’s more concerned with something else first: stepping onto the court and following in the footsteps of other well-known 21st-century Clemson quarterbacks, including Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, DJ Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik (whom he plans to back up in 2023).

“I have to earn the right to get NIL deals,” said Vizzina, a native of Alabama. The reality is that no one wants to make a deal with you if you never play. People want a national champion. They want someone who will have a chance to win the Heisman. If you want real money, that’s where the real money is.

Vizzina said he preferred overall brand recognition to NIL potential during his recruiting process: Essentially, which programs offered the clearest path to brand awareness? If he became a school’s starting quarterback, would he have a shot at winning a championship? A Heisman trophy? A financially lucrative career in the NFL that would quickly exceed all NIL earnings?

“There are other schools that will try to tempt you and stuff, but that’s the hallmark of Clemson,” Vizzina said. “If you’re the quarterback at Clemson, if you win, you’ll have a lot more (opportunities) than people who are backups at a school that has no chance of winning the national championship. That’s how it is. that I thought about it.

Ditto for Hoffler, who said he would major in business or sports communications with an emphasis on broadcast at Clemson. Those are two favorable areas for NIL, full of opportunities he could pursue, but he’s more focused on earning his spot on the team as a summer draftee.

In other words, he keeps the essential as essential.

“Hopefully,” Hoffler said, “everything else will take care of itself.”

Chapel Fowler has covered Clemson football, among other topics, for The State since June 2022. He is a native of Denver, North Carolina, a 2020 UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus, and an avid basketball player. with previous stays at the Fayetteville (NC) Observer and Chatham (NC) News + Recording. His work has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the North Carolina Press Association, and the Associated College Press.

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