NEBRASKA CITY – Husker Radio Network analyst Damon Benning told his Big Red Buzz audience at Valentino’s Restaurant Thursday that Nebraska’s collegiate sports fans have some soul searching to do about Name, Image and Likeness payments to amateur athletes.

Nebraska Football Coach Matt Rhule told reporters last week that a good quarterback in the portal could cost $1 million, $1.5 million or $2 million.

Benning suspects Nebraska can enroll quality players with a lower price tag, but his point for the Nebraska City crowd wasn’t about the money. Rather, he wonders how fans will react if a $2 million portal transfer does not pan out.

Benning: “We’re hard working. We’re salt of the earth. There are no gimmes. You work for everything you earn. The sport is embodied by …  the whole Blackshirt tradition was so we could distinguish guys. There wasn’t any ‘you’re better than this deal.’ The whole walk-on program, its  whole nature is like being other-centered. So there is this internal struggle, I think, for Nebraska to fully embrace giving college players money and being okay with it.”

He said it’s probably not an issue about finding someone to write the check, but rather something about the fiber of the state that doesn’t mesh with NIL.

Benning: “If the fans know a player is going to make $400,000 and have (an endorsement deal), fans have to be okay with that and not use it against the player or the program if it doesn’t go well.”

He said NIL can be business-as-usual  in places where people are used to sports as ‘big business’ but wonders if Nebraska and NIL may have a conflict over identity.

He asked, even if top NIL money is available for a portal player, does Nebraska want to have athletic programs like that?  He asks if coaches should be content with million dollars deals made outside the program for players, if it later interferes with competition for the starting position. Would donors be okay with large sums going to a player who doesn’t end up the starter because of internal competition?

Benning said he believes Nebraska is on solid footing with the Big Red Collective and the 1890 Initiative but says there are still questions about how it will all settle with fans.