For much of the spring and summer, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was the athletic department’s most visible proponent of expanding the scope of name, image and likeness (NIL) applications to benefit athletes in Ann Arbor. He stopped short of embracing the pay-for-play inducements certain schools have arranged to work the margins of a largely unregulated space, but his most recent suggestion to have the Big Ten share its television revenue directly with players was innovative.
Now, Harbaugh’s most famous colleague in Ann Arbor — Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard — has joined the chorus encouraging the athletic department and university at large to narrow the gap between what’s happening at U-M and what’s happening elsewhere around the country.
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“Would I like to see more done for the program in a sense of some of the things that’s happening with other basketball programs? Yes,” Howard said during an informal media session at Crisler Center on Thursday morning. “I know (my comments) are going to be a story line, and that’s OK.”
Speaking to reporters for the first time since the Wolverines lost to Villanova in the Sweet 16, Howard lamented what he described as relative inaction in the NIL space as it relates to men’s basketball. The university has three official donor-led collectives designed to facilitate business opportunities for Michigan’s athletes — Champions Circle, MGoDao and Stadium & Main — but the first two focus primarily on football with the third including basketball and baseball as well, according to On3.
What Howard is looking for is a collective specifically designed for his men’s basketball program. The On3 NIL database shows basketball-heavy collectives at Arizona, Arkansas, Bradley, Butler, Gonzaga, Houston, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Memphis, NC State, Nevada, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, SMU, Syracuse, UCLA, UNLV, Utah, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington, West Virginia and Wichita State.
“Do we have a collective here? No,” Howard said. “Do other programs have collectives? Yes. Could we be more proactive with the NIL and use more forward thinking? Yes. And I say we — I’m including myself. But our athletic department as well as Michigan as a whole, we can do better.”
Howard told reporters he has shared his thoughts with administrators at Michigan and, like Harbaugh, believes progress can be made sooner than later.
Frankie Collins: An unexpected departure
On April 29, the Wolverines landed a commitment from Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn following the departures of veterans Eli Brooks and DeVante’ Jones.
On April 30, rising sophomore point guard Frankie Collins entered his name in the transfer portal after one season at Michigan.
“It came as a surprise to me,” Howard said. “And it happened so fast. It was like when Jaelin decided to commit, all of a sudden I looked up and Frankie was in the transfer portal.
“We wish Frankie all the best. Very, very thankful for Frankie for what he has done for this team last year. Came in, another young man who has been one of our hardest workers on the team. Never, ever had to beg him to come to the gym, did it on his own. Guys in the locker room enjoyed playing with him, enjoyed being around him. We as a staff enjoyed coaching him.”
A former top-50 recruit with scholarship offers from Georgetown, Kansas and Auburn, among others, Collins played sparingly for much of his freshman season and struggled offensively both with his jump shot (16.7% from 3-point range) and his decision making (he finished with as many turnovers, 35, as field goals) in 11 minutes per game.
But a postseason concussion suffered by Jones afforded Collins a massive stage in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Collins played beautifully in a come-from-behind win over sixth-seeded Colorado State by scoring a career-high 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and grabbing six rebounds. He turned in another solid performance in the upset of No. 3 Tennessee by relying on his defensive prowess to torment the Volunteers.
“Frankie stepped up once again,” Howard said after his team advanced to the Sweet 16. “And I recruited him; I know what he can do.”
At that moment, Collins appeared poised to become Michigan’s point guard of the future given the guaranteed departure of Brooks and the likely departure of Jones, who bypassed his final year of eligibility to turn pro.
Six weeks later, he was gone to Arizona State.
“We’re going to miss him,” Howard said. “We really are. Because when a family member decides to move on and move all the way out West, it’s just like you have a brother or a sister that’s getting married and they move out West with their family, it hurts a little bit. A knife in your heart. But I just want to see him be successful and I’m going to be one of his biggest fans.”
Crossing the pond
The Wolverines will fly to France next week to begin a lengthy overseas trip featuring three exhibition games in three different locales as Howard and his staff begin molding another roster laden with youth.
Michigan is scheduled to face local professional teams in Paris, Athens and the island of Mykonos in Greece. Specific opponents have not been named, and all three games will be played behind closed doors at Howard’s request.
“I think it’s great to have a chance to go to Europe, not only to use it as an educational trip, which, in my opinion, some of the best education is in travel,” Howard said. “You go to a place like France and Greece, you get a chance to really explore and you learn a lot about the cultures. But then we also get an opportunity to play three games, which I feel is a wonderful opportunity for our guys to get a chance to measure what we are at this moment and time of our team, and seeing what areas we can improve on as we look forward to this upcoming season.”
Howard plans to approach the exhibition games as something of a testing ground for lineup combinations, offensive and defensive schemes, substitution patterns and more. Everyone on the roster will be given the chance to play, and that includes freshman forward Youssef Khayat of Lebanon, who is already enrolled at U-M and will join the team in the next few days.
The lone injury concern is former Duke forward Joey Baker, who underwent hip surgery in April and is still recovering. Howard said Baker has returned to practice with limited contact and will most likely be rested in Europe.
“I know our first team that we play in France — and I do not want to say their name and mispronounce it — but I will say this: I know they have four players that have played in the NBA,” Howard said. “And I think that is great. It’s great to get a chance to play against experienced guys that are professional men which pretty much, in college, we faced last season. Even though it was the collegiate level, (our opponents had) a lot of older men being a young team that we had last year.
“I’m sure you guys know this by looking at our roster; we have a lot of younger guys this year, too, with five incoming freshmen. But I think that’s why this summer is a very critical time for us to add to our culture. And what our culture is, is family being first. And when you’re away from your main family members that you’ve spent your lives with and you get a chance to be with guys you call your extended family, your bothers, for 10 days, I mean, I think this is the best bonding you can ever get.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Juwan Howard wants a Michigan basketball collective for NIL race