Cam Christie is Not Returning to Minnesota; Gophers’ Dreadful NIL Budget Revealed

cam christie minnesota gophers ben johnson
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The offseason has not gone as planned for the Minnesota Gophers. They’ve lost most of their best players to the NCAA transfer portal, including blossoming big man, Pharrel Payne (more on him momentarily). Meanwhile, phenom freshman Cam Christie entered the NBA Draft.

Still, many of us (myself included) were holding out hope that Christie would struggle to find greener grass in the NBA, and opt for a return to Dinkytown. But on Wednesday, news broke that Cam was entering the transfer portal too, just before Thursday’s deadline.

Cam Christie is not coming back to Minnesota Gophers

At the time, there were some rumors floating about that his “Do Not Contact” designation meant he was just keeping his options open, which is partially true. But, according to Darren ‘Doogie’ Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North), Minnesota will not be one of his options, should he decide to return to school, which is very possible. Why have the Gophers already been ruled out? NIL (or lack thereof).

“Cam Christie… I mean, the money is just… it’s ridiculous. It really is. Building a relationship, being a good recruiter, doesn’t matter anymore and I can’t fault these kids. My understanding is the feedback that Cam has gotten [from the NBA] has been pretty lukewarm. Now, he’ll go have some workouts for teams, may get a combine invite or a G-League combine invite, so he’ll have many more opportunities to impress scouts, and it’s a weak draft.

So it’s entirely possible Cam keeps his name in the draft, gets drafted, signs like a four-year deal, the last three years non- guaranteed, but that first year guaranteed. That he can go start his professional career. That is absolutely in play. But if he plays college basketball next year, which is also very much in play, it’s not going to be at Minnesota.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd (SKOR North)

Unfortunately, I wish I could say that Wolfson got more optimistic about the Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball program’s outlook after this… but I can’t. It got significantly worse, in fact.

Related: Ben Johnson, Gophers Receive Transfer Portal Commitment from Oregon Guard Brennan Rigsby

Remember when I mentioned former Gopher big man, Pharrel Payne? He’s now a Texas A&M Aggie. Why? Because he’s receiving well north of $500,000 in NIL dollars to transfer there. Now well north? Wolfson doesn’t give an exact amount but he does say that the ‘get in price’ just to start negotiations with Payne was $500K.

Ben Johnson’s NIL situation is really, really tough right now…

How close was Minnesota to matching that number? Here’s where things get downright depressing. According to Doogie, the Gophers men’s basketball team doesn’t have anywhere near $500K to pay their entire team. Ben Johnson’s entire NIL budget is $350-$400K. Less than what Payne is making individually at A&M. Yikes…

Doogie: “When you hear the money being tossed about… think about Pharrel Payne. He got North, I know Reusse threw out $500,000, that was the get-in price. Like, if you want Pharrel, it’ll take you a minimum of $500,000. I was told, in the end, it’s north of 500,000 with Texas A&M. [Gophers assistant coach] Dave Thorson built up this great relationship, going back to Pharrel’s junior year, sophomore year, at Cottage Grove Park. Those don’t matter anymore.”

Mackey: “What’s the most that the Gophers [can pay]? Like what is there [budget]? What are we paying for basketball players?”

Doogie: “Here’s what I’ll tell you. So Pharrel Payne is getting north of $500,000 from Texas A&M. The entire Gopher roster, right now, doesn’t touch that. The Gophers’ pool right now is like $340K… $350K.”

Mackey & Judd (SKOR North)

Honestly, I do not know who to blame for this… or if the Gophers basketball program being a feeder team for the actual real players of the power-4 basketball world is an inevitable reality that no coach would be able to overcome.

We brought Ben in to recruit Minnesota kids and get them to stay home out of high school. But when the Gophers can’t even pay their entire roster what other schools are playing individual players… there’s just no shot at fielding a competitive roster.

Related: Minnesota Gophers Grab Two Backcourt Transfer Portal Commitments

And if you’re blaming the kids… then maybe take a deep breath and look in the mirror. Why does money matter to you? This is life-changing money we are talking about. It’s impossible to blame the players for taking way more money to move elsewhere. You and I would do the exact same thing.

The fact of the matter is, Ben Johnson needs to be a better fundraiser. Either than, or Mark Coyle will be forced to find someone who is. PJ Fleck seems to have figured something out with the football program’s NIL situation. Johnson needs to find a way too. And honestly… maybe it’s too late.

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