Players to get paid in new college hoops in-season tournament


The fire hydrant has been busted open and money is spewing in the streets of college sports. Mens’ college basketball saw the success of the Inaugural 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament and has decided to start one of its own.

Men’s college basketball will host its first in-season tournament in fall 2024, titled Players Era. It will be held in Las Vegas. According to Front Office Sports, the first one will have eight teams, and then be expanded to 14 in 2025. Duke has been rumored to have been invited because any Men’s CBB event is better with that polarizing brand, especially with Cooper Flagg arriving next season.

Just like the NBA, Players Era will also provide a financial reward. All participating teams will receive $1 million in NIL money. The winner will also be provided an extra $1 million. Programs will be allowed to use their own discretion in how the money is distributed, so long as every dollar goes to players.

It’s a shame that the prize money has to be thinly covered with the veil of NIL. The NCAA recently lost an antitrust case and is currently forbidden from enforcing any of its NIL rules. NCAA President Charlie Baker has discussed schools being able to opt into a subdivision in which money is put into a trust for the athletes.

Technically, this new in-season tournament will be compensating players through NIL, however, the court case and this new tournament are evidence that college sports are heading quickly towards direct compensation for the athletes.

There being a cash reward in a college basketball tournament is the biggest sign yet that the new world or collegiate athletics is here. There is no turning this ocean liner around. Big bucks is the way of the future.

Older members of congress can whine and Baker and the NCAA can chew its fingernails while its power gets stripped from it. These players work. They spend weekends on work trips, hours during the week honing their games, and perform live at events that charge admission. The fact that college basketball imitating the NBA’s idea for an extra tournament is evidence that the players are as much of an employee as the coaches.

There are going to be some difficulties in this new world. Keeping the non-revenue-generating athletic programs going will take a lot of thought. Some of them might not survive. Maybe schools should not have spent so much money on facilities and coaches in the revenue-generating sports to try to avoid paying players, but that is neither here nor there.

Collegiate athletics will continue to learn on the fly how to keep the young adults in uniforms from getting burned by big business while trying to keep as many scholarship sports available as possible. There are people who have been getting paid far longer than the players in university athletic departments and conference offices who are capable professionals. Those people will eventually figure out the best way for players to get what they have long deserved.

The answer will more than likely involve better money management, because the money is never leaving the hands of the players. The Players Era is proof that we are very much in the players’ era of college sports.

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