Syracuse football announced on Friday that longtime strength and conditioning coach Will Hicks is being brought back to serve as SU’s Director of Player Engagement. After being fired by Dino Babers in 2016, the former Scott Shafer S&C specialist had worked with the Varsity Club, the Orange athletic department’s fundraising arm for alums, and was most recently the Director of Development for the ‘Cuse Athletics Fund, the University’s athletic fundraising money pool. (Yes, it’s easy to get all of these things confused because of all the new NIL legislation that’s popped up over the past year).
SU has its own fundraising to do for athletes, the 315 foundation is now up and running and Adam Weitsman is also doing his thing with generous NIL offers for highly-touted recruits. There’s a lot of different cash flows coming in and out. If you are tapped into the world of college athletics, you might’ve seen Miami recently get a slap on the wrist from the NCAA for the Cavinder twins, guards on the ‘Canes women’s basketball team, dining with multi-bajillionaire booster John Ruiz during their transfer portal recruitment process. Obviously, the NCAA is just waving around a flyswatter while blindfolded to try to “enforce policy”… but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Hicks’s main focus, other than avoiding the long but decrepit arm of the NCAA, is to take anything having to do with NIL off the plate of Babers and the Syracuse football coaching staff. The coaches already have a brutal task as is…coach a full season, prep for a bowl game while trying to keep your kids from transferring and find transfers before the spring semester, avoid the coaching carousel, make it through spring practice, manage the April transfer window, summer ball, season. You get the idea. Add on top of that recruiting high schoolers who are now more than ever wooed by cash that can go hand-over-fist over the table, and it’s a dizzying thought.
SU athletics says Hicks will “create engagement programs for student-athletes off the field, specifically with Syracuse community members and alumni. He will provide current student-athletes with networking opportunities and work with alumni and community members to identify NIL opportunities for athletes. He will also cultivate real world experiences for student-athletes with business leaders and non-profit organizations.”
In short, Hicks will drum up some dollars so the Duce Chestnuts and Ja’Had Carters of the world maybe think twice before hitting the portal. That’s a much needed addition to SU’s small NIL operation.