HOUSTON -- Nijel Pack believes that any concerns about name, image and likeness deals adversely affecting athletes are overblown.
The Miami men's basketball star, who reportedly signed an $800,000 NIL deal with billionaire booster John Ruiz's LifeWallet company when he transferred from Kansas State, said Friday that the sponsorships have not created an atmosphere of jealousy but have brought both the men's and women's teams together.
The Miami women's team reached the Elite Eight for the first time this season while the men's team is making its first trip to the Final Four. Four members of the Final Four team and both Hanna and Haley Cavinder, who are on the women's team, have lucrative sponsorship deals with Ruiz.
"The [locker room] has been great," Pack said Friday in Houston. "We can see both with the men's and women's programs that we've done some special things this year. You can see there was no effect on the court because both teams were really winning games, especially at this time. I feel like the team chemistry and the team bond has to be really strong to make it this far in the tournament. I feel like it's a big reason why we're so good because our bond and our connection together is really strong. We want to see each other be successful and each other to win."
Pack has dealt with scrutiny around his decision after he became one of the few athletes who had the details of his deal disclosed. Ruiz announced the financial components of the deal when he signed Pack.
Throughout the NCAA tournament, Ruiz has been a visible supporter for a Miami team that benefited from the new and legal world of name, image and likeness sponsorships. Ruiz told ESPN at the Elite Eight in Kansas City that the Hurricanes have established a blueprint.
"If you do it the right way, yes," Ruiz said.
Pack said NIL has been a positive experience for him, despite the criticism from some who called the practice a pay-for-play system even though it's legal in every state.
"NIL has been great," Pack said. "We've really benefited from it. I think it's great that basketball players get the benefit from their name, image and likeness. It has been great for me."