Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Talks Justice, Civic Engagement at Radcliffe Day


Church Says It Did Not Authorize ‘People’s Commencement’ Protest After Harvard Graduation Walkout


‘Welcome to the Battlefield’: Maria Ressa Talks Tech, Fascism in Harvard Commencement Address


In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises


Rabbi Zarchi Confronted Maria Ressa, Walked Off Stage Over Her Harvard Commencement Speech

‘Early to Call It Doomsday’: Athletic Director Says Lack of NIL Collective Won’t Hurt Harvard Athletics

Erin McDermott, the Director of Harvard's Athletics, speaks to The Crimson in a Thursday interview. McDermott said she was willing to risk losing a few recruits over Harvard's lack of a name, image, and likeness collective.
Erin McDermott, the Director of Harvard's Athletics, speaks to The Crimson in a Thursday interview. McDermott said she was willing to risk losing a few recruits over Harvard's lack of a name, image, and likeness collective. By Emily T. Schwartz
By Jo B. Lemann and Tyler J.H. Ory, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Athletic Director Erin McDermott pushed back against concerns that Harvard’s lack of a name, image, and likeness collective could make it fall behind other programs competitively in an interview Thursday.

Though she acknowledged that Harvard’s lack of an NIL collective could adversely impact recruitment, McDermott said she would be willing to risk losing a few recruits over the years. McDermott also said during the interview that the Athletics Department would “allow” undergraduate sports teams to pursue unionization if there was interest.

NIL collectives — donor-funded groups independent from universities — have recently made headlines for raising millions to pay out to student-athletes at top athletics programs. Harvard, and other Ivies, have yet to see a collective form.

When asked about the creation of an NIL collective at Harvard, McDermott said “it would really be up to alumni and/or donors to do that, if they so wish.”

Though she expressed doubt that a collective would form anytime soon — saying that “there’s been less interest from our donors and alums, to form that, compared to other schools” — McDermott didn’t rule out the possibility.

“We haven’t heard of any of that kind of interest,” McDermott said. “Could it ever happen here? I’m not going to say it’s impossible.”

Without a collective, Harvard Athletics has focused on educating student-athletes on NIL regulations in the Ivy League, according to McDermott. She also noted that some Harvard athletes are taking advantage of NIL deals, though not “at the level” of athletes at schools with collectives.

McDermott said that at present, NIL collectives are only potentially affecting the Harvard basketball team and not other sports. Last month, Harvard men’s basketball star player Malik O. Mack ’27 entered the transfer portal.

“We’ve been able to stay competitive even though we don’t give athletic scholarships,” McDermott said. “So NIL adds now another layer on top of the fact that we don’t give athletic scholarships, but it’s really at this point impacting one sport.”

McDermott also said Harvard still offers long-term benefits to athletes, calling the University a “40 year opportunity, not a four year opportunity.” She explained that, for Harvard Athletics, sports are a “co-curricular activity and extension of the classroom.”

“There are life lessons being learned as being an athlete and the coaches that you’re working with are incredible mentors and teachers,” McDermott said. “So I think we want to stay true to that value system.”

While McDermott acknowledged that the lack of an NIL collective at Harvard may have a negative impact on recruitment, she said she is willing to accept that rather than “compromise” athletics and academics at the University.

“If it means we end up with, I don’t know, a couple less recruits over a period of time that might have come but now they won’t, I’m willing to take that risk,” she said.

Overall, McDermott expressed that NIL wasn’t majorly affecting the Ivy League yet.

“I think it’s kind of early to call it doomsday, for sure,” she said.

McDermott also spoke about the possibility of sports teams forming a union following a successful union vote among Dartmouth basketball players last month.

“If a team were to come forward with that interest, I think we would certainly allow for it,” McDermott said.

She said, however, she hopes players view their involvement in athletics at Harvard as something they “love to do” and a “privilege.”

“I would hope that they don’t view it like a job,” McDermott said.

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

—Staff writer Tyler J.H. Ory can be reached at Follow him on X @tyler_ory.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

CollegeCollege LifeDepartment of AthleticsFront Middle FeatureAthletic Director