May 13, 2022 - Sports

The wooing of a college wide receiver

Jordan Addison prepares to catch a ball.
Jordan Addison of Pittsburgh makes a catch against Michigan State at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 30, 2021, in Atlanta. Photo: Adam Hagy/Getty Images

A vaunted college football player eager to transfer schools visited the University of Texas this week, meeting with the team's head coach and key players — just as the NCAA warned big-school boosters not to dole out money to recruits.

Why it matters: Landing 20-year-old Jordan Addison would be a huge off-season win for a football program rebuilding after a 5-7 season.

  • As a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh last season, Jordan Addison won the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the best receiver nationally.
  • But the team's quarterback headed to the NFL.

The intrigue: Pitt's wide receivers coach, who worked most closely with Addison, has been hired by Texas.

Context: Money.

  • Among the teams at the top of Addison's transfer list are UT and USC, universities whose boosters can pledge millions of dollars to pay athletes to use their name, image or likeness to promote a product or cause.
  • Flashback: Last fall, we wrote about how UT athletes were capitalizing on their names and images.

Yes, but: The NCAA sent new guidance this week to its Division I member schools clarifying that rules "preclude boosters from recruiting and/or providing benefits to prospective student-athletes."

Reality check: The horse has left the barn.

  • Carefully crafted booster collectives already advertise the kinds of sponsorship deals that athletes can book if they come to campus.
  • Late last year, UT donors announced the launch of a $10 million fund to bankroll name-image-likeness opportunities for student-athletes, another salvo in an increasingly bruising effort among boosters of top sports-playing universities to lure elite athletes.

Catch up quick: Last year, pressed in courts and by student-athletes, the NCAA lifted its long-standing ban against athletes earning money from sponsorship and endorsement deals.

  • Still, athletes could not simply be paid for playing sports; compensation could not be used to lure an athlete to a particular school.

The bottom line: Among the UT athletes courting Addison this week was UT star running back Bijan Robinson — who happened to announce last week a name-image-likeness deal with the Austin Lamborghini dealership.

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