With the NCAA model under attack, sports media company Overtime is launching its own basketball league and offering high school players six-figure salaries to skip college.
How it works: Overtime plans to recruit up to 30 athletes, ages 16 to 18, to forfeit their high school and college eligibility and join their league, Overtime Elite (OTE), starting in September.
- Compensation: OTE athletes will receive at least $100,000 annually, plus health insurance and equity stakes in the company. They can also earn money from their name, image and likeness (i.e. jersey sales).
- Fallback fund: $100,000 in college tuition money will be set aside for each player in case they decide not to pursue basketball professionally.
- Format: Players, and possibly their families, will move to one city (to be determined) to live, train and compete. Games will be played on the same court, and the plan is to add an international tour.
- Education: Overtime, which has over 100 employees and expects to nearly double in size with the launch of OTE, will hire education staffers to teach athletes and help them get high school diplomas.
- Leadership: Longtime NBA executive Aaron Ryan will serve as OTE's commissioner and president, while former NBA player and assistant GM Brandon Williams will lead the basketball operations division.
Between the lines: OTE's model resembles the academy system used in Europe and elsewhere around the world, where major college sports aren't a thing and amateurism is a foreign concept.
- "Abroad, they're all pro at 16, so they're looking at our model and thinking 'What's the revolution here?'" says Overtime co-founder and CEO Dan Porter.
- "Nobody was complaining that Luka Dončić got paid to play basketball at 16. Nobody shed a tear over him not going to college. So what's the double standard?"
What they're saying: NBA commissioner Adam Silver seemed to approve of OTE when asked about it on Saturday, saying he isn't opposed to paying younger people and that "optionality is good."
The state of play: OTE isn't the only league recruiting teenagers to skip college and get paid. The NBA, itself, is now courting 18-year-olds to join its G League developmental program after graduating high school.
- The NBA is expected to end the one-and-done rule in the next few years, which could allow OTE graduates to go straight to the league.
- Until then, they'll likely spend a season playing in the G League or abroad before becoming eligible for the NBA draft.
The intrigue: Part of the appeal of OTE is that Overtime has 50 million followers and knows how to create digital content for teenagers, the most important audience for any rising star.
- By comparison, Saturday's Duke-UNC game drew just 1.87 million viewers to ESPN — and most were not teenagers.
- "Ask college players if they gain a lot of followers after playing on ESPN2 or another network," says Porter. "I guarantee they gain more on our platform, and it's an audience they care about: young people who are going to buy their sneakers."
The last word, via Sportico's Michael McCann: