Duke announced Tuesday it has hired Rachel Baker to serve as the general manager of the men's basketball program.
"In this exclusive position, Baker will specialize in helping players enhance their personal and professional skill sets, capitalize on strategic partnerships, including NIL opportunities, and work to support players in navigating the opportunities and challenges that come with being a student-athlete at the highest level," a school statement said.
Baker previously worked at Nike and in the NBA. With Nike, she helped the company's Elite Youth Basketball League build partnerships at the grassroots level, and she managed "strategic initiatives" involving Nike signature athlete Kevin Durant.
Baker's hiring is a reflection of the new normal in college sports. Although schools can't provide name, image and likeness deals as a direct inducement for athletes to sign, the eventuality of those sponsorships can clearly be a motivating factor.
General managers have become especially popular across college football, where there's a heightened level of danger for Power Five programs to lose their best players through the transfer portal. Fred Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison left Pittsburgh behind for USC this offseason.
That's not as much of a problem for Duke because the Blue Devils' top men's basketball stars often leave for the NBA after one season. But first-year head coach Jon Scheyer and his staff clearly need to have a leg up on the NIL front in order to not only continue landing blue-chip recruits but also to potentially poach ready-made talent in the portal.
The basketball landscape is also different from football in that there are alternatives for high schoolers, such as Overtime Elite and the NBA G League pathway, that allow them to be paid while working toward the pros.
The Athletic's Brendan Marks explained how Duke "can’t afford to rely solely on the strength of its brand or legacy." He added the Blue Devils are likely to be a trendsetter since "this is a move that will soon be emulated by all of college basketball’s top programs."