Bitcoin. Dogecoin. Ethereum. The cryptocurrency craze, and the adjacent crypto sports betting phenomenon are both currently sweeping the nation. And it’s absolutely huge among college kids, who are taking general interest in crypto to new heights. After the 2021 NFL Draft, the first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, partnered with an app that paid his signing bonus entirely in crypto.
Zoomers are really into it, and it’s a hot topic of discussion amongst members of the Illinois Fighting Illini baseball team.
“I talk about it a lot, my team is really big on that,” said shortstop Branden Comia by phone. “And I just kind of listen in, but I haven’t really put any money into it.”
Comia is a finance major at the Gies School of Business. Like this article’s author, he freely admits that he doesn’t fully understand cryptocurrency, and the block chain technology upon which it runs.
“It’s kind of funny, just seeing their mood each day based on how their crypto is going for that day,” Comia said of his Illini teammates.
This is not the time or place to get into a full explanation of what crypto is, but for more reading and edification on the topic, you can read this prior post we did on Bitcoin, as well as this article on Dogecoin, and this additional piece on Doge.
When we spoke with Illini coach Dan Hartleb by phone this week, we brought up the Cryptocraze in the Illini dugout. He said he gives his squad some space, so he hasn’t gotten into a lot of discussions with the team about trading/investing in crypto.
“Those guys do that more in the locker room and their apartments,” said Hartleb.
“I try to leave them alone in their little environment, so we have not had those discussions, but I do know that they follow those things.”
“And I do think it’s really good for them to think about investing and think about their futures.
“We’ve got guys who are going to have a degree from the University of Illinois and are going to be doing extremely well, so for them to already be thinking about investing and looking at their futures, I think that’s awesome
“That’s part of growing up here.”
For the members of the team who do get drafted into the Major Leagues, and hence earn signing bonuses, there’s an added need to be fiscally astute.
Just like knowing the true value of your investments, your stock price so to speak, a college baseball player has to truly know his draft stock too.
Hartleb has said before that if a player is a true prospect, not just somebody who will get drafted at some point, but a guy with real big league potential, then he should he leave early and get paid.
“I think if a guy is a prospect and they’re paid like a true prospect, then I think they should go,” Hartleb continued.
“And when I say paid, a $100,000 isn’t a lot of money, when you start taking taxes out and those things, so we’re talking about somebody who’s going to get $250,000 to go and higher, so I think those are guys, they should probably go and finish their career and then finish their academic portion later.
“I still think the education is the most important part of this whole equation, and for guys to leave early and not finish their degrees, is probably the biggest mistake of their lives.
“They might not see it at this point, but they would come to regret it later.”
He’s absolutely right- the college experience is all about education, whether that’s in the classroom, on the field, or in other life experiences. The greatest lessons we learn in college pertain to what we learn about ourselves. And the cryptocraze, no matter how much we do or don’t get involved with it, is a teachable moment.
We’re either going to learn about financial bubbles, or about how monetary and digital revolutions get started.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and he co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast, part of Edge of the Crowd Network. Follow him and the website on Twitter and Instagram.