Minnesota Gophers Basketball NIL Budget Revealed

Minnesota Gophers head basketball coach, Ben Johnson NIL

College sports have been completely flipped upside down, thanks to athletes now being able to collect from their name, image and likeness (NIL), without penalty from the NCAA. In reality, though, that description is mostly a veil for what has become, at the power 5 level, a lower tier of professional basketball or “pay to play”.

The more NIL cash teams can offer, the better players they can attract and keep around. For the most part, it’s no longer about the best campus, or facilities, or even winning. It’s about where players can make more money. And with the numbers that get tossed around, who can blame them?

The new NIL rules we know today kicked in back in 2021. It took a little while for the Minnesota Gophers to find their footing in this new NIL wild, wild west that is collegiate athletics, but Ben seems to be gaining ground on the programs ahead of them, recently. But how much NIL funds do the Gophers actually have to work with?

Charley Walters Reveals Minnesota Gophers MBB’s NIL Budget

Ben Johnson, Minnesota Gophers basketball
Photo: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In his latest Pioneer Press column, longtime local insider Charley Walters reported a somewhat specific number about the Gopher Basketball program’s finances. According to Walters, head coach Ben Johnson is currently working with a budget of approximately $1 million, to divvy out between the 12 players he has on scholarship.

Where did that number come from? Walters snuck it in with a note regarding what new Arkansas head coach, John Calapari, has at his disposal. He writes: the “word at Arkansas” is Calipari has an NIL budget of more than $5 million annually, which is — wait for it — 5x more than what the Gophers are working with.

Word at Arkansas is that new men’s basketball coach John Calipari’s 12-player NIL budget will exceed $5 million annually. That’s five times more than that of the Gophers.

Charley Walters – Pioneer Press

Now, I’m no mathematician, but if my calculator works properly, that would mean the U of M’s official collective Dinkytown Athletes, is currently able to scrape up about $1 million per year for the men’s basketball program.

Is that a hefty amount? Depends on who’s counting and which school you’re comparing them to. Johnson was able to keep his best player around, Dawson Garcia, in part due to a better than ever NIL situation.

Related: Budding Gophers Star Cam Christie Will Test NBA Draft Waters

But it’s also been well-documented that Garcia turned down much more lucrative opportunities elsewhere, because he wanted to stay in Dinkytown. The same cannot be said for guys like Pharrel Payne (this offseason) and Jamison Battle (last offseason), who both left for bigger paydays.

Where does Gophers MBB stand in NIL world?

NIL budgets are mostly kept under wraps, with only estimates floating around, making it a cruel guessing game most of the time. But if we assume Arkansas is working a $5 million budget, we can probably safely project blueblood schools like Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are much bigger than that.

But, don’t panic, Gophers fans. Those are the extreme cases. There’s a reason why Arkansas has been so good in recent years, and it’s not all credit to Eric Musselman, who was hired away by USC this offseason. At $1 million, I’d imagine Minnesota sits right in the middle of the Big Ten.

Related: NIL Ineligible Big Man Frank Mitchell Commits to Gophers

Cam Christie, the standout Gopher freshman with dreams of making it to the NBA, recently announced his intention to enter the draft, signaling a potential end to his college career.

Speculation is that if he does choose to continue playing at the collegiate level for one more year, it will likely be in Dinkytown. Reports from Walters a month ago suggested that it would take $400,000 in NIL compensation if he chose to stay, which would be a substantial chunk of this reported $1 million budget.

Andrew Morgan, who transferred from NDSU, picked Nebraska over Minnesota in the end. Minnesota reportedly offered $200k, but Nebraska’s deal was better. Still, Minnesota likely has money left to spend. And i’m sure they used some of it to keep key players like Mike Mitchell, Parker Fox, and Elijah Hawkins around for another season.

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