Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl spoke to the media Monday morning before teeing off for his golf classic “Bruce, Barkley and Basketball” at the Robert Trent Jones – Grand National.
And his comments made more waves than a tee shot into adjacent Saugahatchee Lake.
Regarding the development of the basketball practice facility, Pearl stated that there were concerns that needed to be addressed before the practice facility would be built. “Here’s what we need to do: We need to take care of the NILE area first – in all sports. First, it has to be one of our commitments and goals,” Pearl said when asked about the facility. “We have a few other things to take care of before we take care of the practice facility.”
After the NCAA passed the “Name, Image and Likeness” rules last summer, collegiate programs scramble to build bigger and better NIL programs, both marketplaces to connect student-athletes with support opportunities and “collectives” Student-athletes are directed to the donations. Auburn created the “SPIRIT Exchange” to achieve the former and has seen numerous permutations of a NIL collective to achieve the latter, most recently On To Victory introduced in the summer and on game days at Jordan-Hare Stadium prominent advertising shows and behind coach Bryan Harsin for his press conferences. The new collective has reportedly surpassed their first-year funding goal in less than two months.
The basketball facility was approved by the Auburn Board of Trustees in February, and architectural firm Goodwin Mills Caywood was commissioned in April. A detailed explanation for the change in priority was not given, but Pearl indicated that the facility was not immediately necessary to the success of his basketball program.
“We won by sharing the practice facility with the volleyball team and women’s basketball team and doing gymnastics there. That doesn’t lead to winning. Would I love a better classroom? Would it be easier for our student athletes to be able to, you know, don’t we have to share time with everyone? We make sure it works. But if we do it, we’ll do it right.
Once complete, the new facility would serve as the primary practice space for the men’s and women’s basketball programs and would be available for overflow from Neville Arena. Currently, both basketball teams and volleyball and gymnastics teams use Neville Arena’s existing playing surface and practice facility, providing SEC-required access for street basketball teams that are in town to play the Tigers, making it a frequent scheduling conflict and disruptive.
Pearl pointed out that the priority at NIL is more than just basketball. Most sports in Auburn, much like the rest of the NCAA, are not high-grossing. We reviewed the 2019 Auburn Financial Reporting System report to the NCAA, which we received via FOIA request, and learn that of the $31.5 million in ticketing revenue in 2019, over $29 million was attributable to Soccer accounted for, with men’s basketball grossing just under $2 million, baseball grossing just over $500,000, softball draw grossing just over $200,000, and gymnastics grossing $119,000. No sport outside of soccer ($5.2 million) and men’s basketball ($752,000) made enough from ticket sales to just cover the cost of bursaries for participating athletes, let alone full travel expenses , uniforms, nutrition, etc. required to compete at Power 5 level.
NIL is particularly effective for “equivalency” sports such as baseball, where bursaries are not fully allocated to each player but are shared among the entire team and NIL funds can help cover tuition for participating athletes. Only football, basketball (men’s and women’s), volleyball, women’s tennis, and gymnastics are “headcount” sports, where full scholarships are awarded to each athlete. Every other sport on campus is considered “non-income-based” and is therefore subject to the equivalence method for grant distribution – baseball has 11.7 grants that must be divided across the entire list.
While there is hope that equivalence sports scholarship restrictions may be revised in the future, a critical part of NIL is Auburn’s goal to compete for championships across the athletics department and truly be a #EverythingSchool.
Get involved on social media with Auburn Daily!
Join the Discord
Like Auburn Daily on Facebook
Subscribe to Locked On Auburn on YouTube
Shop Auburn Daily Merch