Would football coaches spend their own money on NIL? Don't ask | Whitley

Tom Brady got filthy rich playing football. He could have gotten filthier, but Brady took less money so his teams could spend it on other players.

Now he has seven Super Bowl rings to show for it.

I bring this up because of the pleas you might have been hearing from college football coaches. Their livelihoods largely depend on recruiting, which nowadays largely depends on NIL cash. Schools are increasingly asking fans to pitch in.

“If you’re not going to help us get the players to beat them,” UConn coach Jim Mora said as his team flailed to a 3-9 record, “then you are not entitled to b---- when we don’t beat them.”

Kentucky’s Mark Stoops was a bit more diplomatic after Georgia beat the Wildcats 51-13.

“I encourage anybody that's disgruntled to pony up some more,” he said.

That raises a question every coach should be asked:

Why don’t you pony up some more?

I posed the question to the coaches at five Florida schools. I’ll get to the answers in a minute, but first, a little context.

A competitive NIL budget is about $15 million or more. The annual salaries of the state coaches run from $8.05 million for FSU’s Mike Norvell to $2.5 million for USF’s Alex Golesh.

You should also know it’s not my place to tell anyone how to spend their money. And based on the financial and emotional impact a successful coach can have on a school, you could argue a guy like Norvell is underpaid.

That said, it would seem “The Brady Effect” would apply here.

Take less, get more. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is the rare coach who has publicly endorsed such a thing.

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“Coaches are profiting millions,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘Don’t say anything about that. That’ll take away money for the coaches.’”

The temptation is to say coaches are just being greedy, but it’s more complicated than that. Athletic department employees aren’t allowed to donate to third-party NILs. But money is fungible.

Schools are constantly twisting arms to help fund athletic department budgets. Since the NIL monster crashed the scene two years ago, boosters are also being hit up for those contributions.

A coach could theoretically take a smaller salary (we’ll pause now to let super-agent Jimmy Sexton spit out his coffee). That savings could take care of some athletic department bills, which would free boosters to pony up more NIL moolah.

It seems straightforward, though nothing is as simple as it seems when it comes to college sports. Things got more confusing a few days ago when NCAA President Charlie Baker proposed a massive shift in the whole business model.

Big schools could break away, make their own rules, spend whatever they want to keep their student-athlete-entrepreneurs happy. There are about 2 million details and legal challenges left to be worked out, but it’s obvious that pay-for-play is going to get bigger.

We might even get revenue sharing. Imagine players getting a 50% cut of the $300 million a year ESPN will start paying the SEC next season.

That might make coaches’ contributions moot. But for now, NILs crave every penny they can get.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh waves at fans to celebrate U-M's 26-0 win over Iowa in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh waves at fans to celebrate U-M's 26-0 win over Iowa in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

An extra million or two will get you some top-shelf talent. And we know an interested party that has plenty of disposable pennies. Which brings us back to the $76 million (in honor Jimbo Fisher’s buyout) question:

“If it were allowed, would you be willing to take less money, which would then go to players?”

I asked the coaches at Florida, FSU, Miami, UCF and USF. Through their media representatives, here are the survey results:

“Yes,” said one coach who didn’t want to be identified.

“We are not going to provide comment,” one school said.

Another school said it would try to get back but never did.

The other two did not respond.

You can draw your own conclusions from all that.

All I know is if a coach isn’t willing to pony up and help his team get players, he’s not entitled to b---- when other people don’t.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: College football coaches could pony up to ease NIL strain