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On Saturdays this fall, University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young will lead the Crimson Tide as they vie for yet another national title. But on Tuesdays this season, Young will have another role: podcast host.
As part of a deal the quarterback signed with Colin Cowherd and iHeartRadio’s The Volume podcast network, Young will talk college football each week on The Bryce Young Podcast alongside Jake Crain, host of The Volume’s Jboy Show.
The move is a big deal, both for Young and The Volume (“There is no brand in college football bigger than Alabama, and there is no position more celebrated than playing quarterback,” Cowherd says), and for the future of college athletes exploring the media space. “I just thought, you know what? This is really cool,” Cowherd adds. “It’s an opportunity for fans to hear somebody, to get the perspective of the quarterback, the on-field coach of Alabama, the best dynasty of my life. So it just felt kind of natural.”
Young is coming off a record-breaking debut for Alabama on Sept. 4, breaking Joe Namath and Mac Jones’ record for most touchdowns thrown in their first game starting for the university. He would go on to be named the SEC’s player of the week. In other words, he will have a lot to talk about on his first show.
While there is a long tradition of pro football players jumping to media, both in the broadcast booth (CBS’ Tony Romo and Fox’s Greg Olsen are among the more recent examples) and in news and entertainment (CBS Mornings’ Nate Burleson and Good Morning America‘s Michael Strahan), Young’s deal is one of the first examples of a football player kicking off his career in media while still in college.
It all stems from a “name, images or likeness” (NIL) policy the NCAA adopted in July following the Supreme Court ruling in NCAA v. Alston, which found that restrictions on college athlete compensation violated antitrust rules. The new NIL rules allow college athletes to monetize their brands through endorsements, merchandising, and yes, media deals like podcasts.
“I think this generation, that is what they know, that is what they have grown up with their whole life. So them putting a microphone in front of their face and doing a 30-45–minute show, talking about the week? That’s a Thursday night for them. It’s not outside the box. It is very much who they are,” says CAA agent Ed Berry, who negotiated Young’s deal. “I definitely think this will be the first of many that you see make these types of moves.”
“They can pick up their cellphone and go live on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and you can engage with your entire audience,” Berry adds. “So why would that not correlate and bounce over to podcasts and digital media deals?”
“They are on social media, they have got their own voice, they are all funny, on Instagram and Twitter, they are so much more sophisticated than maybe a quarterback in the ’60s or ’70s or ’80s or ’90s,” Cowherd adds.
The Volume label has been an early mover, with the Young podcast following a similar deal it struck in August with Notre Dame football players Kyle Hamilton, Cam Hart, Conor Ratigan and KJ Wallace.
“It won’t be the first time a quarterback talks after the game, but it is the first time that I remember that a big-time college football quarterback at a national powerhouse has a platform — and you will hear them every Tuesday,” Cowherd says.
The wave of NIL deals also opens up new opportunities for agents, who can officially forge relationships with athletes and families years earlier than they would have been able to otherwise. They can represent players when they turn pro and pursue media deals for them after their playing careers have ended.
“Talk about parting the Red Sea here, the space is wide open,” Endeavor president Mark Shapiro told THR. “And if we do right by them, ultimately, we sign them down the road for their on-the-field contracts. The heavens have opened up on this one.”
A version of this story appeared in the Sept. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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