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Well, That Was Fun

The game had a good run.

And I thought an expanded playoff was going to ruin college football.

It still might, mind you. Twelve teams including four P5 champions with however many losses they’ve accrued get in no matter how poorly ranked. The Big10 will send whoever they decide is likely to go furthest and pretend that team is their champion (sorry Indiana.) Teams that have earned their way in the old fashioned way will have new and exciting opportunities to get injured against teams tossed into the mix to maximize earnings. Yippee!

It now seems more likely that the game we’ve loved will be irreparably changed (you could argue that transformation began a week ago) by the new Name, Image, and Likeness policy.

I’ve been against paying players because Title IX says you can’t just pay the revenue earners and paying all athletes – paying even just the revenue earners for that matter – would cripple most athletic departments. In the end there would be fewer young men and women on scholarship than before as sports are shed to account for new costs.

I’ve also been against paying players on supply and demand grounds. If you advertise a job at salary X and get overwhelming response you don’t ex nihilo change the salary to X + Y. You might try lowering the salary and see if interest maintains, but you don’t raise it. As of right now, high school athletes are clamoring for scholarships as currently offered. They are sending homemade DVDs (probably a different format now, but I’m an old) to impress coaches. The market says a scholarship is an attractive enough enticement.

The NIL gets around Title IX nicely, but man does it come burdened with issues all its own.

The Individual vs. The Team

NIL legislation allows players to capitalize on perceived fan interest. The more recognizable and loved a player is, the more money they are likely to earn. It’s a popularity contest.

You can see the problems coming from a mile away.

Imagine a Wide Receiver corps. You have the top guy. He’s happy. He’s making great money shilling Ruby Tuesday frozen potato skins or whatever. He loves his quarterback. The second leading receiver does alright with a local potato skin concern but he knows that a national brand is just some hard work away-until the second time he was wide open and the quarterback didn’t see him. Getting overlooked is costing him money and what started as bright-eyed ambition gets supplanted by a kernel of jealousy and then a surety that he’s being disrespected. The quarterback is costing him money.

This is happening all over the field. The running back thinks the pulling guard is lagging. The safety makes a horrible read and leaves a cornerback all alone with two possible receivers. The running back doesn’t read the blitz and the quarterback throws an interception because he’s hit mid-throw. Obsessive football fans will properly assess and lay blame, but not everyone will. Money is doled out based on public perception (or coaches twisting booster’s arms, but there will be some economic aspects to sponsorship rates.) You need to be on a highlight reel.

I have faith that Saban can keep his guys focused and avoid greedy infighting. Maybe that’s just the Gump in me. I’m not sure about anybody else. It’s hard to keep a player’s focus on the team rather than the self. The possibility of NFL money has always been a consideration, but that’s in the future and money is dependent on the needs of pro teams, how those needs line up in the draft order, and how one player weighs against a player from another team. There are a lot of factors that are out of a player’s control. NIL money is immediate and if a player thinks he’s being harmed by the play of another, the supposed malefactor is right there in the dorm, the weight room, the cafeteria, and in meetings.

The NIL is not a guarantee that a player will put himself first, but it’s an incentive; an added weight on the wrong side of the scale.

The G5 Is Now a Farm League for the P5

If a guy missed out on P5 offer but has more than a modicum of talent – maybe he’s a late bloomer – and shows well on the field for a G5 team, he is on the market. Recent transfer rules have removed any obstacles to team hopping. You want to go where the money is.

Differing levels of booster engagement, the availability of money, and local interest in college ball are going to make winners and losers of programs even within the P5. The G5 is going to get steamrolled.

Oddly, I think you may see a few impatient quarterbacks go against the flow and transfer from the P5 to the G5. Not everyone has the foresight to see the advantages of waiting your turn. Money is out there now and if there is no chance of a start for a few years on the current team and no landing place on another P5 team, then something may be viewed as better than nothing. Blame Matty Simmons for the death of delayed gratification.

The rich are going to Bezos and the poor are going to get poorer.

Aside: I’d love to see someone get loads of moneyed football fans to rally around a small G5 team and build them up, buying five stars and such with obscene ad deals and making an absurd run for the playoffs like a Russian oligarch-owned Division 2 English soccer team hellbent on buying promotion to the Premiership.


Finally, I’ve yet to get a satisfactory answer to this question. Various legislative bodies have passed laws allowing college players to make money of NIL. So what?

We all have rights to our NIL. We can all make money off such, assuming there is demand. College athletes have joined a private organization that has rules, one of which is that membership in that organization requires you not make money from NIL. You can. You have the right. You just give up membership should you choose to do so.

You have every right to do ads for a liquor store, but that might cost you your membership in the Temperance League. If Congress came along and passed a law granting you the right to do liquor store ads, a right to which you were already privy, the Temperance League shouldn’t give one whit.

Why didn’t the NCAA nod to the legislatures, say something along the lines of “Thanks for informing us,” and then go on as they were?

That’s all I got. Feel free to excoriate me in the comments.