If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ike Ukaegbu, I highly suggest you do so. You can find the Frogs’ 36 year old compliance guru at just about every sporting event, often roaming the hallways and pathways that make up the many facilities across the TCU campus. Should you have the chance to meet the rising star, you’re sure to be greeted with a smile, and more than likely, he will remember your name.
Ukaegbu, a Nigerian native who spent his formative years in Wyoming, is among the rising stars in college athletics, an innovator in his current role in compliance but someone destined to lead his own athletic department someday. After participating in the NCAA’s Pathway Program, designed to elevate senior-level athletics administrators to the next step as directors of athletics or conference commissioners last year, Ukaegbu seems just steps away from being an AD, sooner rather than later. As current TCU AD Jeremiah Donati told Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram last week, “Ike has emerged as a true leader on our team. He’s someone who came to TCU and has just gotten better and better every year. He’s someone I have a ton of admiration and respect for. His future in college athletics really has no limits. If you’re good enough to become an AD, you’re going to get your opportunity. I think Ike is certainly going to get his.”
For now, he’s working to make compliance something other than the “bad guys” on the TCU campus and is pioneering the Horned Frogs’ approach to NIL deals. So take the opportunity to meet him now, before he takes his talents to the top of his own Athletic Department someday.
Speaking of NIL, if you missed Gary Patterson’s comments last week (Jamie covered them for us here), well, the quotes have certainly gone national.
Patterson claimed that there are “ five SEC schools calling him and telling him, ‘Here’s what we’ll give you if you come here and not stay at TCU,’” he said of an unnamed freshman on his roster. “At the end of the day, that’s just real life. If we don’t do anything about it, within a year we lose him. The rules have changed. There is no wrong anymore.”
This was the unintended consequence of rolling out NIL “legislation” as it were in one fell swoop and with no guidance, but the NCAA elected to release the bagmen as opposed to trying to slow the rolling boulder and risk getting sued later. Now, non-blue bloods, especially those that find themselves located in a conference that finds itself in a semi-perilous position when it comes to its long-term future, are watching other schools — namely those in the SEC — come trolling for their top talent.
As someone firmly planted in the ‘pay the players’ camp, well, this sucks but it is what it is. You have to let the kids profit off of themselves, and frankly, there are programs better positioned to maximize the value of an athlete’s name, image, and likeness. TCU, and Fort Worth, certainly has the kind of screw you money to make star players rich, it just hasn’t happened yet. Meanwhile, schools like Miami, Alabama, and even BYU are watching guys sign big money deals and even high school players are getting opportunities to get paid.
Patterson is asking the boosters, the supporters, and the fans to do the same.
“We planted the trees. Now we have to water ‘em,” Patterson said. “I hear, ‘Well, I don’t want to get dirty. It feels dirty. I don’t know the rules.’ Let me just say, you guys know me, I’m just going to tell the truth — the bottom line to it is I can lose 25-30 guys on scholarships by January.”
TL;DR: It’s time to pay up, folks.
On the baseball side, Kirk Saarloos said at the same event that TCU Baseball had lost three recruits to schools that promised them at least $1,000 a month in sponsorship deals. The Frogs simply can’t compete with that. Yet. And that’s what this event was all about, letting folks know it’s time to step up and open the checkbook. It’s all legal now, so start writing, friends.