The United States Congress are set to debate on and rule on parameters pertaining to the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) law that will eventually turn colleges into a new version of themselves, resembling minor leagues more than it does an institution of education. Not only will it have a direct impact on various cirriculums of study, but on other electives and sports throughout these universities. As of right now, the NCAA has delayed most opportunities to give updates on how they plan on navigating through and managing all these potential drastic changes to the gigantic body they govern, and have decided to wait until Congress makes the first move before they unleash any differences in structure or before rebuttals can be heard. Rest assured, this is a major topic that will forever change they way colleges of all size do business with their student athletes moving forward, and it will also trickle into how the professional leagues handle incoming athletes at their level.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, college basketball and football bring in the most revenue for the majority of NCAA participating schools, with the latter being substantially in the lead. No doubt, March Madness brings in huge chunk, not only through gambling, but advertising. However, football reins supreme in the revenue aspect. Up till now, and until some concrete guidelines have been set in place, student athletes have been barred from hiring an agent in their venture to pursue revenue through their NIL, but this is all going to change inevitably and swiftly. The momentum has been created, the cat is out of the bag, and at this point there is almost nothing the NCAA can do to stop it. They can only hope to contain it. As these student athletes begin to seek endorsement deals on the national and local levels, major college programs may find themselves losing contracts they have with their own sponsors- who might choose the athletes over the school. At the smaller schools, we are quite likely to see some programs being dropped- from athletics to educational- because the school knows where they are already bleeding money. NIL and little shifts in revenue could have a butterfly effect that gives the school no choice but to steal from Peter to pay Paul.
A few of the pros are obvious. Kids will be able to go outside of the school, and may be approached to sell a product through radio, television, social media, or print. Perhaps a local car dealership wants to have the star quarterback sign autographs on Sundays for those that bought a vehicle during the week, allowing those people to bring in their school memorabilia to be inked and get a fresh selfie with said player. Perhaps a school that is out of scholarships to give can hook a student up with a monster deal that pays him enough to pay his own way through school, and live comfortably while there. Also, potential deals dangled at kids will likely become a great asset in recruiting. Perhaps if schools can get companies to invest heavily in these athletes, they can hand out less scholarships and spend more on improving academics, facilities, and teacher salaries.
Of course, for every ying there’s always a yang. If I’m a Left Tackle, 5 star recruit, and my cocky freshman Quarterback (who now has his own sweet pad off campus where he’s always throwing parties and making it rain) has a great endorsement deal and I don’t have squat… How hard do I really feel like blocking for this douchebag? Put me in the transfer portal and get me the hell out of here!!! If I’m a sophomore that’s almost guaranteed to start junior or senior year -barring the school brings in another recruit at my position- what’s to stop me from jumping into that transfer portal? Find that another school not only will take my scholarship, but will also allow me to start right away, AND hook me up with a couple of companies that have said they’ll give me a deal if I land there- making be the new Big Man on Campus. Next man up will become a term no longer used only in the NFL.
There are just soooo many ways this thing can play out. I have been racking my brain trying to sift through the matrix and anticipate how it’s all going to actually work. Honestly, I think networks are afraid to talk about this topic much (perhaps asked not to by the NCAA?!?) and Lord knows the NCAA would like this topic to go away. But, it’s too late for that. Even the NFL hasn’t brought this up much. Why is that, you might be asking? Because in both circumstances, both entities, the NFL and the NCAA are going to lose both a ton of control and their asses along with it. Think about it for a second… If a kid is used to being paid a lucrative endorsement during his three or four years at college, while simultaneously being worshipped on campus like Trevor Lawrence in the shampoo aisle.. He’s not walking into the draft feeling like a rookie. As far as he is concerned, he’s been a professional for years and he feels maybe he doesn’t have to play for the team drafting first overall. Maybe he wants to specifically play in Vegas where there’s a strip club owned by a guy that he knows and will make him a 50/50 owner while he has free range to throw as many parties there as he likes, whenever he likes. Say goodbye potentially to the NFL Draft!!! Arch Manning is the first name that comes to mind, as I believe we are basically going to be counting down the days until he’s draft eligible the moment he sets foot on a college campus. But wait, there’s more…
What if a company pays a half dozen or so players at the University of Texas to advertise and make appearances for them, but under the condition that they not only stand but also sing along with the (now) controversial song, “The Eyes of Texas”?!? Boy… there’s a can of worms I bet we weren’t ready to open. What’s going to happen when it’s about endorsements, and not necessarily a chance to win a title, becomes the deciding factor in where a kid (and his parents) wants to go to school? If a company is paying a collection of athletes to play for the school, is it out of the realm of possibility that another company under their corporate umbrella is likely to pay the school to basically promise the kids don’t actually need to attend class? What if they must guarantee that they remain academically eligible, regardless of whether they are doing the work ? What if Congress sets their guidelines and the NCAA and/or some major Power 5 schools don’t agree with them? Is it impossible to fathom the idea of some of the elite teams in Division I breaking off from the FBS and the NCAA altogether and forming their own super conference with their own rules?
I can totally see some Power 5 schools having completely stacked rosters in the starting positions (with a few role players on the bench), and then having a complete drop off in talent after that. I can see some companies’ owners paying a premium to a player or a few to keep just enough talent at their Alma Mater, in order to be just relevant enough to remain competitive. I can see teams switching conferences in order to dominate them and/or keep from being ran off the field every game, because they can’t get anywhere close to the same talent level anymore. I can see endorsements being the new scholarships. If Alabama can find endorsements for half of their team they probably won’t bother handing out 25 or so scholarships each year. If FCS schools find themselves short on alumni and while local companies line up around the block to pay some players, perhaps they will be in a better position to land some high ranked recruits.. unless they are also caught up in a bidding war for their services. Essentially, some FCS (and lower half of FBS schools) might actually find that the gap in talent between them has closed albeit miles from the Power 5 talent level. I can see the transfer portal turning into college football free agency in some form. It probably won’t take long for some schools and or players to disagree with the NCAA’s rule on transfers. As of now the NCAA only allows for a player to transfer once with ought having to sit out a year, but at the rate things are happening, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see them allowed to transfer as many times as they like. After all, these student athletes are pretty much professionals now. I can’t see these current rules staying as is, especially at the dawn of a new era.
I can also see a new playoff format coming as a result of potential realignment. If a Super Conference is formed it would most certainly come with a new TV deal. A new playoff format would bring in blockbuster revenue through advertisements. This new Division could realistically sell every game as a “Bowl Game” since it’s likely almost every team would be in playoff contention at the start of the season. If players can get monster deals in each of the schools in the Division, it’s likely the talent pool will be much more spread around than ever before. If a realignment of the magnitude I’m thinking about were to occur, that would make the 24 team FCS playoff model a whole lot more interesting. Imagine if a dozen or so teams dropped out of what’s now considered the Power 5 and about a dozen or so teams that are currently in the Group of 5, AND the FCS jumped in to the Power 5’s new separate Division. This would likely lead to what’s left of the Group of 5 to join the FCS in a Mega Tier II Division that would have around 192 teams in it. If all of them were elevated to be playoff eligible it would make for a phenomenal season of competition. Oh, and if you think Deion Sanders is doing a good job recruiting at Jackson State now, just wait till he gets a company like NIKE on board for his guys.
Here’s another can of worms. What is going to happen when the women’s basketball team is upset that they aren’t finding as high paying deals as the men are, and also not nearly as many? What happens if NIKE decides to pay an athletic girl on the field hockey team to do a documentary of her trying to make the football team? How awkward would it be if she is cut? How awkward would it be if circumstances like that, the portal, and endorsements pretty much obliterate any chance of there ever being such a thing as a “walk on”? Never mind women trying to play. Let’s say NIKE now wants to make a documentary on an openly gay and or transexual player to try out? Is there a more difficult player on the roster to cut than that at this point? The coach that cuts either of those scenarios would be cancelled faster than “John from Cincinnati” was by HBO. Also where does the name, image, and likeness madness begin and end? These nice fluff pieces that the networks put up during the games about how hard this or that player had it coming up with a single parent or whatever… I imagine they’re going to have to pay the kid for even saying his name and showing the brief documentary, no? Speaking of names… Are schools going to still be allowed to put names on the back of jerseys without player permission? Are players going to market themselves as their nick-names, and if so can we expect some “He Hate Me” business to be added into the mix? Don’t even let me pontificate on what might happen if caucasian athletes right out of the gate start landing better deals than people of color!!! I’m not EVEN going to try to tackle that one today, but go ahead and put that in your pipe and smoke it!!! But yeah, I got questions!!!
Last but not least is the XFL. I have half the mind that thinks Dwayne Johnson bought the league and is attempting to buy the CFL and merge them together, knowing that there’s a major possibility that he might be able to out bid a lot of programs for student athletes. Don’t tell me the Rock showing up in a truck wrapped in Under Armour vinyl to a kid’s door as Nick Saban is walking out, wouldn’t be exactly what the new recruiting landscape would look like. Imagine now having the choice of a $650,000 endorsement deal and a full ride to Alabama, or a $1.25 million deal with the Birmingham Iron… Oh boy. I’ll be diving into this topic more and more as we get more developments, but as you can see, there’s a lot goin on here.
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feature photo credit: Bleacher Report