Isaiah Wong, who averaged 15 points for the Miami Hurricanes team that made a run to the Elite Eight during March Madness, is threatening to enter the transfer portal unless his NIL compensation is increased. Wong appears to be the first college athlete to take this approach, which is basically the NIL era's awkward version of a hold out or trade demand. Wong's NIL agent Adam Papas informed ESPN of the player's intentions on Thursday.
"If Isaiah and his family don't feel that the NIL number meets their expectations they will be entering the transfer portal tomorrow, while maintaining his eligibility in the NBA draft and going through the draft process."
As The Dude would say, it's a very complicated case. Wong is checking out the NBA Draft, but if he isn't going to get drafted, he's going to play college basketball again. If Miami can't find him more money, he's leaving. Now that players have the rights to explore all their options, this type of thing was inevitable. The only real question is how a university would respond to such situation. If this is any indication, it's going to be weird.
ESPN did not get comment from the University of Miami, the Miami athletic department or the team's basketball coach. They got it form Florida billionaire John Ruiz. Via ESPN:
"Isaiah is under contract," Ruiz said in a text message to ESPN. "He has been treated by LifeWallet exceptionally well. If that is what he decides, I wish him well, however, I DO NOT renegotiate! I cannot disclose the amount, but what I can say is that he was treated very fairly."
That text is absolute chaos and apparently the ESPN story left out part of it. Here's a tweet from one of the article's authors.
Just incredible levels of Trump energy throughout that message. Wong has been "treated by LifeWallet exceptionally well." "I DO NOT renegotiate!" "There are so many players that would love to play for the U!"
For every adorable local endorsement for a kid who has a big moment on a small stage, we're probably going to end up with some irritated billionaire annoyed some amateur athlete expects his fair-market value. Ruiz is basically acting as the Hurricanes general manager in this scenario.
This is actually pretty weird! If you're a traditional college sports fan, it must seem especially gross. If you think think players should be getting paid, this should still make you cringe. It's great that there is finally some money going into the pockets of the people generating the income, but there is just no way this is the longterm answer. So far it's mostly just awkward, but if this is how kids and colleges are going to be communicating - through third parties who have their own money on the line - then it's only a matter of time before something happens that really sets the movement to pay the players back in an embarrassing way.