Imagine a world in which every national champion in men's and women's basketball — football, too — celebrated their spoils in ways that earned players money and allowed them to profit on their accomplishments.
You don't have to imagine it after all: that world is here.
Kansas men's basketball is about to set the model for what every national title winner in the three biggest collegiate team sports can and probably will do after every national championship game moving forward. As it was recently reported, Kansas players will soon embark on a statewide "barnstorming" tour of publicity and celebration in light of the . Kansas has done things like this in the past, with its outgoing seniors, but this time it's different. This time all players can, and will, profit off their achievements, their names, their images, their likenesses and their legendary local statuses as 2022 national champions.
As they should.
Every player, all 18 on Kansas' roster, is scheduled to be there. Notably, that includes First Team All-American/Final Four Most Outstanding Player Ochai Agbaji, in addition to Final Four hero David McCormack, future NBA Draft pick Christian Braun and potential returning starters DaJuan Harris Jr. and Jalen Wilson.
There's even a website for this celebratory tour, complete with a countdown clock and this message: "Join us for a night of fun filled with silent, live auctions and autograph signings with all 18 players. This is something to celebrate as it has only been seniors at previous barnstorming tours. Don't miss the silent and live auctions that will take place during the event and halftime. You won't want to miss the opportunity to win some of KU special player's memorabilia. Saturday, April 23rd come cheer on your national champions. Rock Chalk!"
They'll start by visiting a high school in Wichita, Kansas. Memorabilia will be signed. Photos with Kansas players and giddy KU fans — young and old — will be taken. There will be a special VIP dinner, and the players will also participate in a skills camp for the kids who attend. Fans will also get to see a little live-action basketball, as KU's players will play a scrimmage for fun.
Sounds like a dream experience after months and months of hard work that led to a cherished championship run. Kansas players will bask in their title glory, while Jayhawks fans will get a chance to experience something that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. Tickets will go for as little as $30 to as much as $125.
Arguably the best part: Kansas' players are set to collectively receive 70% of the ticket revenue from however many of these events wind up happening in the coming weeks. What's more, any championship Kansas gear that is sold, 100% of those profits will go right back to the players. This is the platonic ideal of NIL rights in action. It's merit based. Kansas won the national title, now its players get to reap the benefits of their labor by getting paid — and it's all allowable under name, image and likeness rules.
Kansas was prepared for this as well. The school partnered with a company called 6th Man Strategies — which was started by former KU baseball player Matt Baty — in the fall of 2021. Kansas basketball is the biggest deal in that state. There were going to be humongous NIL opportunities, and Baty knew it. By virtue of winning the national title, Kansas' players now have an opportunity to go out into the community, celebrate their title and get a little bonus cash on the side.
The world of NIL has exploded with an array of individual moneymaking opportunities. What Kansas is doing here is a twist on that: it's for the whole team. A communal experience. It's a way for everyone, from Agbaji and McCormack to the walk-ons, to capitalize on their accomplishments. A wonderful thing, and the latest example that NIL rights for players enhances the college-athlete experience.
This is only the beginning. The possibilities are expansive. Expect to see Kansas' title tour template become the norm for national champions in the years to come; it would be a wasted opportunity otherwise. To root for a college sports team is to ingratiate yourself in the highs and lows of fandom. When a team wins a title, it uplifts a community in many ways. Schools have always profited off of championship gear, commemorative memorabilia and the like. They still will.
Now the players get their share.
What if Alabama wins another title in football in 2023? Sure, the roster is much larger, but don't you think an army of Alabama fans around that state wouldn't gleefully show up and pay to shake hands, take pictures and bid on auction items from the CFP title game? Of course. The same goes for any other fan base, and this is probably only the start. Creative minds will eventually come up with bigger and broader ways to rally community support and put a little money in players' pockets after making school history.
Take your pick: UConn, Stanford or South Carolina women's basketball; Clemson, Georgia or Ohio State football; Duke or Kentucky or Gonzaga or North Carolina or any team that winds up winning the 2023 men's national title in basketball. Doesn't matter what state, what school or how it's done: everyone wants to celebrate a championship, doing so even beyond holding a parade. All title-winning schools could all take advantage of this in the future the way Kansas is now. They'd be foolish not to.