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‘It’s Not the No. 1 Thing on Our List’: Penn State HC Mike Rhoades Says NIL is Important, Not Top Priority

Mike Rhoades - VCU Athletics

Penn State first-year basketball coach Mike  Rhoades knows Name, Image and Likeness is an increasingly important aspect of college sports.

How could he not?

NIL has only been legalized since 2011.

But it’s already to the point where anybody who doesn’t know what those three letters stand for hasn’t been paying much attention, if any at all, to college sports.

Rhoades understands that Penn State needs to have a solid NIL plan to compete in the Big Ten. But he doesn’t want Penn State to be known as a school where players come to make money.

He made that clear to reporters Tuesday in a summer media avalibility session at the Bryce Jordan Center.

“It’s not the No. 1 thing on our list,” Rhoades said. “If the No. 1 thing on your (a player’s) list is how big of an NIL you want to get, then don’t come to Penn State and play for us.

“If a recruit’s first line to me is ‘How much?’… we’ll find other people.”

Rhoades’ take will come across to people as old school. Some might even see it as unrealistic.

For instance, former Michigan star center Hunter Dickinson strongly that NIL was a factor in his transfer to Kansas over the spring.

Some will agree with Rhoades. Others will hope that Penn State would pay whoever wants to be paid regardless of how high of a priority it is. But if nothing else, Rhoades’ “old-school” approach is consistent.

When it comes to NIL, Rhoades knows he has to use it. But he doesn’t want players to go to school’s solely for the dollar. When it comes to the other recent phenomenon that’s dominating college sports— the transfer portal— he feels players abuse their rights to change schools seemingly at will.

Rhoades acknowledged that Penn State’s used the portal— nine of its 13 scholarship player this season are transfers— but he went into detail about what he likes, and doesn’t like, to reporters before Penn State’s Coaches vs. Cancer golf outing last month.

“It’s great right now for us because we need to build a team, right,” Rhoades said. “To make (our) roster. I think it’s a little too easy for someone just to go into it. That’s my opinion. But I understand why the NCAA has done that. Give more autonomy to student-athletes. I get that, and I respect that. I just wish there’s not so many transfers.”

“When something’s not going your way, you’re not playing well, you’re not getting the minutes you want or this and that, there’s something else out there, and that’s just sort of not life to me,” he said. “When you’re out of college someday, and real life hits you, you can’t run away from all that. So I just wish we would deal with some adversity on and off the court. I understand.”

NIL has been a big topic among Penn State fans, especially over the past several months. Some will indirectly argue that Rhoades is Penn State’s coach because of NIL. A portion of Penn State’s fanbase blamed the school’s lack of NIL progress for it not being able to keep Rhoades’ predecessor, Micah Shrewsberry, from moving on to Notre Dame in March.

Regarding Penn State’s king— the football program— coach James Franklin has been outspoken when it comes to what the program needs with NIL, most recently discussing it on the “Next Up” podcast hosted by one of his former players, Adam Breneman.

“For the first two years, we weren’t bold and aggressive with that rule,” Franklin said. “And I don’t care what industry you’re in. When the rules change, you better adapt and you better adapt quickly, and we didn’t do that. So I would say, two years ago, we were way behind; three years ago, we were way behind. In the last year, we’re starting to make some significant progress, but we’re two years behind.”

“Behind” is a word that’s been used to describe Penn State basketball’s NIL efforts, and last December, Shrewsberry echoed that sentiment in an interview with Blue-White Illustrated’s Nate Bauer on the BWI Penn State Hoops Podcast.

”I can’t speak for everybody,” Shrewsberry said, “but I would say of 14 teams in the Big Ten, we’re probably 14, maybe 13 (in NIL). So it’s just about who we want to be as a program. What are we willing to say is going to be our standard?”

Three of Shrewsberry’s best players at Penn State are getting shots in the NBA. Jalen Pickett (pick No. 32) and Seth Lundy (pick No. 46) went to the Nuggets and Hawks, respectively, in the second round of the NBA Draft last month. It was the first time a pair of Penn State players had ever gone in the same draft.

For Rhoades, NBA money is greater than NIL money.

“Try to win big and try to go be a pro, the real money’s on the back end,” he said.

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