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BYU’s Mark Pope On Raising NIL Funds: ‘Most Important Thing We Do’

Feb 1, 2024, 6:07 PM

BYU Basketball, Mark Pope, NIL...

BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope calls NIL fundraising the most important part of his job. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball coach Mark Pope has never been shy about discussing NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness).

Last summer, Pope was candid that BYU lost transfer guard Ques Glover months after arriving on campus due to NIL. Glover later transferred to Kansas State.

“It was all NIL,” Pope said on why BYU lost Glover in August.

Glover hasn’t appeared in any games for the Wildcats this season due to a knee injury he suffered in an exhibition game for K-State.

His departure from Provo has left 22nd-ranked BYU with limited options at the backup point guard spot behind Dallin Hall.

BYU is turning to Jaxson Robinson, center Aly Khalifa, and, to a lesser degree, Trey Stewart as the playmaking ballhandlers after Hall.

BYU Coach Mark Pope talks about NIL

Fast forward to Thursday, Pope was asked in his weekly media availability about coaching in today’s NIL world of college athletics.

The question comes in light of former Boston College head football coach Jeff Hafley leaving B.C. to be a defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL.

ESPN reported that Hafley left Boston College because “College coaching has become fundraising, NIL and recruiting your own team and transfers. There’s no time to coach football anymore.”

Football differs from basketball but remains the top two revenue-generating sports for college athletic departments.

How does Pope feel about the demands of being a college coach in the NIL and Transfer Portal era?

“The most important thing we do is probably raising NIL money,” said Pope on Thursday. “That’s just the job that’s been created for us in the last couple of years. I think that’s probably the most important thing we do. It probably should take up the most time and it probably does.”

Pope continued, “… That’s part of building the best relationship that you can with your players. So if you can deliver on NIL, then that is the building block of a relationship with players where they feel like you’re really working for them. I think there’s something to that. I think it’s also really important that you build an environment where guys feel comfortable, and they like and they think they’re getting better.”

This past offseason, Pope and his staff made roster retention a top priority. BYU retained nine scholarship players from last year’s team.

BYU basketball focused on roster retention entering the 2024 season

It’s paid off so far as BYU enters February ranked in the top 10 of the NET and KenPom ratings and is projected as an NCAA Tournament team.

BYU has an official NIL collective, The Royal Blue, that became aligned with the school in 2022.

Pope is allowed to connect athletes to NIL entities like the Royal Blue. He said in the past that he spends up to 40% of his day focusing on NIL.

Despite being pulled away from the traditional ways of coaching, the fifth-year BYU head coach is embracing the new world of college athletics.

“I think that what NIL and the Transfer Portal and everything else has done, is that it’s challenged us in a new way. It’s like stretching us to the nth degree to try and become great at coaching. I dig it actually, like, I think it’s an incredible challenge,” Pope said. “But I think anything that brings you closer to focusing on your players and their growth and their needs in building their opportunities, that’s the most important part of coaching.”

Pope advocates for future profit-sharing in college sports

Pope does have an idea of how all of this chaos in college athletics could be fixed.

“I think the whole thing is messy, and I wish we did it differently. We’ve made a catastrophe of the whole thing,” said Pope. “At the end of the day, this is never gonna work until we get to profit-sharing. That’s actually an equitable, and the right and the fair way to do it.”

Pope isn’t alone in advocating for profit-sharing, which would give student-athletes a cut of the billions of dollars generated from television media rights.

Former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh publicly expressed his support for a revenue-sharing model in college athletics before he left for the NFL to take the Los Angeles Chargers head coach position.

It’s probably only a matter of time before revenue-sharing happens when you consider the recent activity in the courts.

The state of Tennessee recently filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over a recent NIL investigation into the Tennessee football program this week.

College sports continue to change, forcing coaches to adapt.

“If you do this NIL right and this every year free agency right. It’s going to force you as a coach to be a better coach in the ways that actually matter.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s’ coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU’s Mark Pope On Raising NIL Funds: ‘Most Important Thing We Do’