The athletic director at the University of Utah, Mark Harlan, told Sports Illustrated this week that a Utes football player was contacted by a name, image and likeness collective associated with another school and offered “about a million dollars” to transfer.
Collectives are booster and business-driven entities that have sprung up to offer NIL money to college athletes. While schools can’t officially offer a player anything, a private collective can — i.e. come to our favorite school and we’ll give you x-amount in “endorsement” money. It’s a work-around.
Neither Flowers nor the unnamed Utah player transferred. They stayed put, valuing their schools above money. That is actually a sign that everything is fine, not that the world is melting down, as College Sports Inc. would, once again, have you believe.
Utah, Boston College and the sport as a whole expressed everything from concern to frustration over these offers to transfer. It’s the latest for a sport whose leadership is currently lobbying Congress in the hopes that the United States government will determine that actual United States citizens (the players) should be limited from 100 percent legal business opportunities because other people (the coaches) say it might make their (well-paid) jobs more challenging.
It is always worth remembering that these players are neither employees nor under contract to their schools.
College coaches and leaders have dubbed these offers as “inducements” and called it “tampering.” A clear mind would see it as something else — a cause for celebration. A college kid being offered life-changing money is a great thing, not a problem in need of federal regulation.
Exactly what kind of person, and what kind of industry, would villainize another person after finding out that someone wants to pay them a million dollars to do something? Exactly how selfish and/or paternalistic does someone have to be to think that a person shouldn’t have the right to know of such an opportunity because, well, just because.
College athletics is a recurring exercise in Chicken Littleism. The egomaniacal groupthink is breathtaking. You have to give them credit though, they never waver and never retreat no matter how many times they are told and proven wrong.
This is the same group that opposed player stipends, academic awards, transfers, NIL opportunities and pretty much everything else. Each one of these was supposed to ruin college sports and destroy interest in the games. (At the same time, conference realignment has caused exponentially more havoc).
NCAA lawyers once actually argued — all the way to the Supreme Court — that allowing athletes to receive monetary academic awards would make fans see college football as a professional “minor league” and since professional minor leagues have very few fans, interest would plummet.
The Supreme Court, among other courts, laughed at that, noting in the 9-0 decision in Alston v. NCAA that “nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.”
And yet college coaches and administrators took that loss and that scolding and found a new boogeyman — someone might offer one of their players a better deal.
As for the fan interest, some 11.6 million people tuned in for the Alabama-Tennessee game on Saturday, the third such 10-million plus viewership game this season. (As recently as 2019, a single game prior to the playoffs cracked the 10 million mark.)
No one cared about the transfers, NIL deals, stipend money and academic award cash on both teams, let alone Alabama quarterback Bryce Young actually starring in Dr. Pepper commercials that aired during the game.
The sport is booming despite everyone’s past concerns and fears. Attendance is expected to be up nationally for the first time in seven years. Leagues are signing billion-dollar plus television deals, which means networks are betting on the sport getting increasingly popular. Coaching salaries rose 15.3 percent year over year, according to USA Today. The playoff is about to be expanded and be even more lucrative.
And yet … there is always “concern.”
Right now they are obsessed with “tampering,” which is an interesting way to frame it.
If someone wanted to let you know that they’ll pay you a million dollars to do the same job you are currently doing, would you want your boss to collude with the other boss to prevent you from even hearing about it?
Well, you aren’t a college coach or administrator, apparently.
College sports needs to get over it and allow NIL collectives to run their course. There is no need for regulation. There is no need for guardrails. Let the free market be the free market. Money has always dominated college sports. It was just the use of passive booster dollars — hiring better coaches, building more opulent facilities, etc. — rather than the current direct booster dollars going right to a player.
Besides, there is no earthly way to stop this. Someone from one school’s unofficial collective let it be known to another person that they were interested in paying them? Is the NCAA going to tap every phone in the country to try to stop that?
This is America. This is capitalism. If you hate someone for making money, or are determined to stop someone from making money, then it says more about you than them.
The coaches need to get out of their feelings and stop trying to control everything and everyone. Change is hard but everyone in college sports makes enough to afford a therapist to help them through it.
Just like the last existential threat, everything is fine. Business is booming.
This time for everyone.