NIL is a Complete and Total Disaster

And so is the transfer portal, too.

I don’t care if this isn’t “pro-player.” Everyone these days is obsessed with being “pro-player,” as opposed to “pro-coach” or, even worse, “pro-owner.”

In college football, I guess it would be “pro-NCAA” or “pro-program” instead of pro-owner, but you get what I mean.

Player empowerment in sports has gone too far.

Folks: JT Daniels, most recently the quarterback at West Virginia, is about to transfer to his fourth college.

He started out at USC, then went to Georgia, then transferred to West Virginia, and now he’s looking to transfer again.

The transfer portal is out of control. Players are literally allowed to leave whenever they want.

Here’s the transfer portal numbers thus far for just the SEC alone:

25 players in the portal for Texas A&M. And as I was typing this post up, yet another A&M player entered the portal: cornerback Marquis Groves-Killebrew. So 26.

College football teams only have 85 guys on the roster. It’s usually between 23-27 players per recruiting class, depending on how many guys you already have on scholarship.

So Texas A&M is about to lose, via the transfer portal, basically the equivalent of an entire recruiting class.

In fact, A&M signed 29 players this past year. They’re about to lose 26 players to the transfer portal.

And that doesn’t even include the guys that are going to the NFL, plus the graduating seniors. I know they have at least three players that are projected to be drafted next year. I counted 11 seniors and 2 grad transfers on their roster. The grad transfers are done after this year, and the seniors may or may not have more eligibility left. But probably the majority of those guys are gone after this year, let’s just call it 9 out of 13 overall.

Texas A&M, between the portal, the draft and graduating seniors, is about to lose 38 players. That’s almost half the team.

Georgia only has one guy in the portal but that number will go up after the playoffs conclude–same is true for the other playoff teams. Once the playoff is over, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU will see more guys transfer. Potentially a lot more guys, if you believe all the rumblings about how schools like Ohio State and Michigan are getting their clocks cleaned in the NIL game.

The mad dash to the portal is just delayed for playoff teams.

This portal nonsense has got to stop. We can’t have teams turning over half their roster every year. It’s insanity.

I don’t care about being “pro-player.” The players don’t always know what’s best for themselves. They’re young kids and their brains aren’t fully developed (except for Stetson Bennett and Hendon Hooker who are 25).

A lot of these kids in the transfer portal won’t find new schools. A lot of them will lose their scholarships. It’s like a game of musical chairs: there’s a limited number of seats and the number of players exceeds the number of chairs. Because you have to consider the number of incoming freshmen as well.

Entering the transfer portal is a big risk, but I don’t think these players are fully cognizant of those risks. I feel like most of them have a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality with the portal. But it isn’t always the case. There are going to be a lot of kids regretting their decisions to enter the transfer portal.

And so there has to be a limit on the portal. You get one transfer and then that’s it. If you want to transfer again, you have to apply for a hardship exemption or something like that. There has to be a legitimate excuse to transfer more than once.

Because the way it is now, where players can up and leave for any reason, it opens up the possibility of rampant and unchecked tampering. No player is ever really settled in where he is if he can just be wooed by another program with a fat bag of NIL money and transfer on a whim at the end of the season.

Under current rules, every college football player in the country enters unrestricted free agency after every season.

In theory there is nothing stopping a team from losing literally every player they have to the transfer portal.

It sounds crazy, but point to me in the NCAA rulebook where it specifies how many players are permitted to transfer out of a program in a given year. What’s the limit?

There is none. So in theory every player at a program can transfer out in a given year.

Again, every player in college football is an unrestricted free agent at the end of every season.

And thus the tampering is completely out of control.

That leads to the other half of this problem: NIL is completely out of control, too.

The original intent of NIL was to allow players to profit off of name, image and likeness. If they want to sign endorsement deals, they can. If they want to start a YouTube channel and make money off it, or a TikTok account, they can do that. They can sign autographs and make money. They are allowed to profit off of the fact that they are college football players.

It’s Bijan Robinson signing an endorsement deal with a company that makes dijon mustard. It’s Jalin Hyatt signing an endorsement deal with Hyatt Hotels. Stuff like that; corporate endorsements.

But what we have now is these NIL collectives that essentially serve as the payroll department for major college football programs. It’s a bunch of wealthy donors who got together and said, “We’re going to buy recruits.” NIL collectives are not corporate sponsorships, they’re not product endorsement deals; they’re literally just people who have volunteered to foot the recruiting bill for their favorite college football team. The can in theory provide the entire roster of a program with a base salary, and a lot of them do. This is completely against the spirit of what NIL was originally intended to allow–again, corporate sponsorships and product endorsements, things of that nature.

So this is completely separate from the athletic department; it’s completely separate from the team. Recruiting is now based almost entirely on the generosity of a program’s fanbase. Private citizens who are not at all affiliated with the university or the football team have essentially become the main drivers in college football recruiting now.

This is not what NIL was supposed to become.

Coaches and athletic departments play almost a trivial role in college football recruiting now. They can roll out the red carpet for a kid, come up with a detailed and comprehensive plan of how they’re going to develop that kid and get him ready for the NFL, bond with both the kid and his parents–and then some other school with a massive NIL warchest can swoop in and make the kid an offer he can’t refuse and steal him away. It’s almost entirely out of the coaches’ hands now.

There are vast disparities in player base salary from program to program, and it’s all based on how much money each program’s boosters are ponying up for the NIL warchest. If you have generous boosters, your program can offer a higher base salary to your players. If you don’t have a well-funded NIL collective, you’re basically shit out of luck. You are in trouble.

I’m not naive enough to think that this wasn’t happening before NIL was legalized. But it was against the rules so it was a lot less common. And if you operated like that, you ran the risk of getting caught and getting in big trouble.

We are now in a situation where the schools with well-funded NIL collectives are basically like vultures perpetually circling the smaller schools, looking to lure players away with promises of more money.

Washington State head coach Jake Dickert describes what it’s like:

The vultures are always circling now.

The players on your team are being actively recruited by other programs, at all times. No program is safe, really. Coaches are probably now in constant fear that their players are being lured away.

And none of it is against the rules.

I feel like the NCAA doesn’t give a shit anymore because basically the sole reason for their existence for many, many decades was to ensure college athletes don’t make any money. Once NIL got legalized, the NCAA’s raison d’être disappeared, and I feel like they are basically in a spiteful, live-and-let-die mode now: “Fine, you wanted this, now deal with it. Enjoy.”

Look, I’ve been critical of the NCAA. I have even said the Power Five conferences–possibly even the G5 conferences, too–should just break away from the NCAA and form their own “league” with a rotating commissioner, and a board of directors. I still think that might be the best move over the long term. I don’t know.

But until that happens, the NCAA has to at least try to take on the role over overarching governing body. It’s clear right now that nobody is in charge. There is nobody overseeing this whole thing, nobody regulating it at all.

Somebody needs to step in here and lay down the law, because what we have now is anarchy. It’s the wild west out there.

We’ve got player empowerment run amok, and now we have booster empowerment run amok. It’s a perfect storm of disaster.

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