Duke Men’s Basketball Hires First-Ever GM to Oversee NIL Deals

Rachel Baker, a former Nike executive, will help players navigate the new frontiers of college sports' name, image, and likeness era.
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Published on June 17, 2022
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  • College athletes have been able to profit off their name, image, and likeness since July.
  • Duke hired Rachel Baker, believed to be the nation's first NIL general manager.
  • Other programs are likely to follow Duke's lead as they try to attract and keep top talent.

Duke University's men's basketball team is embracing the NCAA's new name, image, and likeness (NIL) era by creating a new position to help players capitalize on it.

The team last week announced the hiring of Rachel Baker as its first-ever general manager. She's tasked with helping players market themselves and profit from their fame. Baker is a former Nike executive who led grassroot partnerships and event strategy for the company's Elite Youth Basketball League. She also previously worked in marketing for the NBA.

Baker was hired by new head coach Jon Scheyer, who is replacing longtime coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"The state of college basketball is growing and changing at an exponential rate," Scheyer said in the announcement. "Rachel is a one-of-a-kind talent with unique experience that will provide our players and their families with an unparalleled resource and partner as we navigate new frontiers of college basketball together."

Baker is apparently the nation's first NIL general manager. And other schools are likely to follow Duke's lead. Purdue University, for instance, recently posted a director of NIL engagement position on the NCAA's job website.

Scheyer is replacing Krzyzewski, who coached at Duke from 1980-2022 and won five national titles and made 13 Final Fours. He also coached the United States national team to gold medals at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics. Given his record and reputation as a top coach, Kryzewski had little problem attracting the country's top basketball talent. The team's incoming class of first-year recruits is ranked among the best in the country. However, there's no guarantee that Scheyer can continue to attract top talent like Krzyzewski did.

Baker's hiring is intended to help Scheyer achieve that success in future years.

"Through her work in the NBA and at Nike, she brings nearly a decade of expertise in the business of basketball to our staff, as well as her gifts in relationship and community building, leadership development, and experiential marketing. We can't wait to see all she brings to our program in this newly-created position," Scheyer said in the announcement.

Baker is a former college athlete who played lacrosse at La Salle University from 2008-2011, before graduating in 2012 with a communications degree. She completed work on an executive education certificate in business of entertainment, media, and sports from Harvard in 2017.

"I could not be more excited to join Jon Scheyer and the entire Duke Basketball family," Baker said in a statement. "We're in the middle of such a transformative moment — not only for Duke, but for the college basketball landscape — and the chance to be part of it is the opportunity of a lifetime."

Former Duke player and current Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum applauded Baker's hiring, saying it's proof that the team is ahead of others when it comes to breaking new ground and that's why it's the best program in the nation.

"It's a new playing field, and you've got to adjust," Tatum told 247Sports. "It's not how it was when I was in college or years before that. I think having the right people in place, just with all the NIL deals and things like that, so I'm excited for Duke and obviously Coach Scheyer and all those things, not going to miss a beat."