Travis Hunter just turned college sports on its ear. Wednesday was National Signing Day in college football. Note the capital letters. In college football, this is the equivalent to the draft. It is when the nation learns where the top high school athletes are going. There are TV specials, hats – it’s a big deal.
Arguably the top prospect in college football, Mr. Hunter was going to go to Florida State. Until he wasn’t. Yesterday, he switched to Jackson State, a historically Black college and university (HBCU) that is a virtual minnow compared with Florida State (though coached by legend Deion Sanders).
The move isn’t unprecedented. Last year, top basketball recruit Makur Maker chose to go to Howard University, a prestigious HBCU, but a college basketball lightweight. Mr. Hunter is expected to garner significant commercial interest in naming, image, and likeness rights – something that has only recently become possible. That gives top athletes new autonomy. “With the advent of NIL deals,” The Athletic Pulse newsletter writes, “the landscape is fundamentally altered from a business perspective.”
That is Mr. Hunter’s hope. In a statement, he said: “I am making this decision so I can light the way for others to follow, make it a little easier for the next player to recognize that HBCUs may be everything you want and more: an exciting college experience, a vital community and a life-changing place to play football.”