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Virginia basketball excited but cautious about new NIL opportunities

Tony Bennett and his players see great potential value in NIL, but don’t want it to become a distraction

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Syracuse v Virginia Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

When speaking at the ACC Basketball Tip-Off Media Day in Charlotte, Tony Bennett addressed the new NIL rules which allow players to profit off their own name, image, and likeness and what effect it will have for the Virginia Cavaliers this season.

There’s plenty being done across college athletics to provide athletes opportunities to make money for themselves. Of course, with that comes added pressure for programs to cater to their athletes and help find them those opportunities.

When asked his thoughts on NIL, Bennett immediately emphasizes that “I think it’s awesome,” adding that “if [players] have an opportunity to make some money and do it the right way, I’m all for it.”

Granted, he notes the caveat that “once it interferes with their academics, practice, or competition, then we have a problem. Everything in its right content is good.”

Nonetheless, he’s clearly excited that his players have this chance, saying that “I just want these guys to have an opportunity to make some money, if it’s in the right place, as long as it doesn’t interfere with those things.”

Somewhat cheekily, he acknowledges that a lot of this has been going on for a while, just under the table. “Let’s be real,” Bennett says, “some people have things wired that they’ve been doing all along that now they can do things that are legal.”

He also admits that he’s “still learning about it,” but adds, “I have no problem with it and I think it’s good,” while noting that “it’s still evolving so we have to figure it out.”

As for the players’ perspective on these new opportunities afforded by NIL, Kadin Shedrick says that “I’m really excited,” but that “I don’t go out searching for opportunities. I more so let them come to me if there is one.”

While there haven’t been many publicized NIL deals for UVA players, a few of them have been involved in video game streaming while most of the team has agreed to deals with Locker Room Access — a UVA merchandise and media outlet.

As such, Shedrick emphasizes that “I just think it’s important to not let it distract me from school and basketball, so that’s why I sit in the backseat and let whatever happens happen,” before adding that he’s still “excited for the opportunity.”

Reece Beekman echoes similar sentiments as Shedrick, saying that NIL is “a great way to get your name out there,” as he notes that it allows them the opportunity to “use your abilities for self-care and stuff, so to make money for yourself.”

That said, similar to Shedrick, he says that “[I] haven’t really had anything big yet so I’m just kind of waiting and see where it goes.”