Pac-12 players, coaches still trying to get handle on NIL

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The partnership between Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and Nike co-founder Phil Knight might be one of the most unusual and high-profile deals to come out of new rules allowing college athletes to earn money for use of their name, image and likeness.

That doesn’t mean Thibodeaux understands everything about his new business venture selling commemorative non-fungible tokens.

“I look at it as a digital baseball card and that’s kind of the easiest way to make sense of it,” Thibodeaux said Tuesday.

The earnings potential of everyone from Thibodeaux, a junior who who could be the first player selected in the next NFL draft, to walk-ons dominated the conversation at Pac-12 media day.

Stanford coach David Shaw praised the tactical acumen of Alabama’s Nick Saban for disclosing that Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young had signed nearly $1 million in deals for his name, image and likeness. But Shaw doesn't think Young, a former top recruit who has not started a college game, could command that much money on his own.

“I don’t believe that is true market value. I think that’s Alabama value. But that’s not true market value for an individual, which is what this is supposed to be about,” Shaw said.

Shaw also wondered if such deals will make financial sense for those handing them out.

“I still wonder what you get from giving a student-athlete a whole bunch of money,” Shaw said. “Does that help your business? If it does, great. If that’s not a great business model for you, how is that sustainable?”

Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis hasn’t announced any endorsement deals yet. However, he has enlisted Klutch Sports to represent him, with NBA super-agent Rich Paul personally involved in Slovis’ recruitment.

Slovis said he will be cautious to make sure name, image and likeness rights don’t interfere with anything that happens on the field.

“My main priority isn’t making money,” Slovis said. “My main priority is playing quarterback at USC and being the best quarterback I can be. Anything that kind of comes with NIL is kind of seen as extra for me. I didn’t even think any of this would happen until 2023.”

ASU PROBE

Herm Edwards is rarely at a loss for words, but he didn’t have much to say about the ongoing NCAA investigation into Arizona State’s recruiting.

Edwards said he couldn’t comment on the probe into whether the Sun Devils hosted high school prospects during the NCAA-imposed ban on in-person recruiting during the pandemic.

“Speaking of circumstances right now, as you guys know, we are under NCAA review. With that being said, we cannot comment on what’s taking place with our football team,” Edwards said Tuesday.

The NCAA called off visits to campus by high school prospects in all sports and banned coaches from taking recruiting trips for more than a year because of COVID-19. In-person recruiting resumed on June 1.

Edwards, who is going into his fourth season at Arizona State, said he doesn’t expect the investigation to affect his team's performance.

“Well, for us, it hasn’t been a distraction at all, to be quite honest,” Edwards said. “If you watch our players work and our coaching staff work, we’re excited about getting back in the building.”

After going 2-2 during an abbreviated Pac-12 season last year, Arizona State is expected to compete for the South division title behind junior quarterback Jayden Daniels.

Edwards is 17-13 through three seasons, with an 11-11 record in conference play. Arizona State reached bowl games in each of Edwards’ first two seasons but was among multiple Pac-12 teams to decline a postseason berth last year following a COVID-19 outbreak that shut down the program for almost a month.

Tight ends coach Adam Breneman was placed on paid administrative leave following the announcement of the investigation. Edwards said one person already on staff would assume Breneman’s duties but declined to share specifics.

MEMORIES OF A WEIRD YEAR

There was no shortage of oddities during the Pac-12’s 2020 season, from California and UCLA playing on less than 48 hours' notice to Oregon winning the conference title game after replacing COVID-19-stricken Washington. In spite of those issues, players and coaches still said the season was a success.

“Any opportunity to play is definitely worth it,” Cal quarterback Chase Garbers said. “And obviously we had some issues. We only played four games, one game with our full roster at hand. But it was very worth it just to get more reps and learn more and get a lot of young guys some experience.”

When Stanford to spend the final three weeks of the season on the road because of restrictions in Santa Clara County, it led to a memorable walkthrough in a Seattle park.

Defensive end Thomas Booker wore expensive sneakers as he expected the session to be held on the top level of a parking garage. After being “kicked out for loitering,” Booker said, the team ended up at a muddy field.

“I had a decision to make when I got to the park about whether I was going to mess the (Air Force) Ones up or whether I was gonna go barefoot,” Booker said. “Me being a sneaker-head, I wasn’t gonna mess those up, so I went barefoot.”

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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