Usually when you see the letters "n-i-l" it means "zero." Now it means that St. John’s stars Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander can earn something for how they’ve performed on the basketball court . . . and that could add up to some big numbers.
The goals haven’t changed for the Red Storm duo. Their top priorities are still to win, take their team to the top of the Big East, make a run in the NCAA Tournament and, hopefully, one day play in the NBA. It’s just now there is something extra.
The NCAA lifted restrictions on athletes making money from the name, image and likeness (NIL) on June 30. Champagnie and Alexander would be the first St. John’s basketball players to take advantage. Champagnie this week signed a deal to appear in a set of collectible trading cards. Alexander is involved in negotiations to endorse a clothing line.
"I do like the new rules," Champagnie said at Tuesday’s media day. "I feel like it’s about time college athletes are able to be compensated for what they do and the names they create for themselves with the work they do in their sport. It’s long overdue honestly."
Their appeal is clear. Champagnie, a 6-8 junior swingman, averaged a Big East-best 19.8 points last season and was tabbed a unanimous all-conference first teamer. Alexander, a sophomore guard, was the Big East’s Freshman of the Year and co-Defensive Player of the Year last season after averaging 10.9 points, 4.3 assists and a conference-best 2.6 steals. And they play in the nation’s most-lucrative market.
Things could certainly get better with St. John’s looking much improved after a fourth-place finish with a raft of talented veterans having transferred in.
"There have been some opportunities, but I’ve left some of them alone," Champagnie said. "I don't want to do anything too time consuming. You know, my main priority is basketball."
"I have one deal going on right now . . . . it would be with a clothing line if it comes together," Alexander said. "I feel blessed to have these opportunities . . . but I am not feeling pressure to get something. I want the right opportunity and I am willing to wait for that."
All across the country, college athletes are profiting from their fame as players and social media celebrities. They have made deals with everything from national restaurant chains and products to local car dealerships and other businesses. They also are permitted to profit from appearances.
Before the restrictions were lifted – something the NCAA was forced to do because of court rulings and legislation that was passed in a number of states – anyone making a deal like these would have lost their standing to compete in NCAA athletics.
Champagnie said the opportunities come in all forms.
"One that that I'm working on now, it will be more doing advertisements and a lot of the business will happen through social media," he said. "Others, they’re just me providing my (NIL) for money.
"And being on a trading card could be pretty cool."