When the NCAA officially adopted its name, image, and likeness (NIL) policy, it opened Pandora’s box for collegiate sports. For the first time, amateur athletes have the ability to use their fame and status for monetary gain.
With the NIL policy in place, things were inevitably going to change. How, when, or where they would begin to change was the only question.
But now, for the first time, a high school prospect decided to graduate early and begin a college career, in part because his state did not allow him to profit from the NIL policy.
Quarterback Quinn Ewers is foregoing his final year of high school to attend Ohio State and become eligible for NIL benefits
State laws can still override the NIL policy. Texas, where Ewers attended high school, does not allow athletes to profit from NIL until college. Ewers was already close to graduation, so he’s finishing his final class and enrolling at Ohio State early.
Moving up a graduation class (reclassifying) isn’t uncommon for high school athletes, but it’s most often seen in basketball. For example, if an athlete reclassifies from the class of 2022 to the class of 2021, they graduate from high school a year earlier and from college a year earlier and are therefore able to play professionally a year sooner. Since the NBA requires players to be one year removed from high school before entering the draft, some of high school basketball’s top recruits decide to reclassify to reach the league sooner.
Ewers is reclassifying for another reason, though. He stated on Twitter:
Ewers went on to say that his decision to leave high school early wasn’t entirely for financial reasons, but it clearly carried weight in the ultimate result.
How will Ewers benefit from his decision and was it the right one?
We won’t find out anytime soon whether this was the best route to take for his football career, but Ewers will certainly find financial gain in it.
He hasn’t cemented any deals yet, but it’s only a matter of time. As his popularity rises, ironically in part because of this decision, more opportunities will present themselves. It wouldn’t even be the first time a player who’s yet to take a snap would be compensated.
Has Ewers’ decision changed college football forever?
Few high school football players are ready to play at the collegiate level immediately, mentally or physically.
Ewers is a special case, though, in this way as well. The No. 1 prospect in the country, according to 247Sports, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds. He is physically mature and talented enough to play in college. He’s only the sixth player since 2000 to be given a 1.000 rating by 247Sports. His rating is even higher than Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who was one of the most highly decorated quarterbacks of all time heading into college and was just drafted No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Committing to a college football blueblood doesn’t force Ewers under center from day one, either. Ohio State already had a crowded quarterback room before his decision. So it’s hard to say if Ewers’ choice to forego his final season of high school is going to become common.
But without a doubt, the college football landscape has changed, and there’s no going back.