In the olden days of 2016, many of the favorite people you like to follow on Twitter or watch on TV were upset that three future first-round draft picks in Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers were sitting out of their bowl games due to injury, as they chose to protect their future earnings.
Kirk Herbstreit called it a “disturbing trend,” and Mike Leach said, “I can’t think of a more selfish point of view.” Five years later — and a day after two of the biggest coaches in the sport bolted on their programs before the season ended for huge paydays — and the double standard of how teenagers playing a game for free always get held to a higher standard than the adults who make millions is at an all-time high.
The sports world is losing its mind right now after Brian Kelly sent his team a “U Up?” late-night text about how he was dumping them in the morning after we already knew. Damn the fact that the Irish have a chance to play in the College Football Playoff for the third time since 2018 because that means nothing when LSU throws $95 million at you. And the rumors surrounding the absurdity of Lincoln Riley’s deal that got him to leave Oklahoma for USC are so wild that it’s got him on TV making up his story as he goes.
Look, we can have a discussion all day about how Riley and Kelly executed their moves. But be clear, I’m not mad at them for getting their money. However, what irks me is how coaches are never frowned upon for doing what’s best for their careers when players are hardly given that same grace.
Due to the NCAA granting all college athletes another year of eligibility due to the pandemic, the continued loosening of transfer rules, and the creation of the transfer portal, it’s believed that between FBS football and Division 1 men’s basketball, over 3,000 students switched schools — or at least tried to — in the past year.
Players are finally getting some power over their futures. However, they’re not often viewed in the same way that coaches are when they do it. Although NIL has finally put legal money in a lot of players’ pockets, the system is still rigged as it’s nothing but a technicality that allows the NCAA and schools to keep all the profits for themselves while letting someone else pay their workforce.
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Penn State’s James Franklin, Riley, and Kelly all sign contracts hovering around $100 million. So, the old adage of “we can’t pay the players” doesn’t exist anymore if boosters and schools keep finding millions to pay coaches during a time in which the pandemic led to tons of schools shutting down entire programs due to “budget tightening.”
And to think, Duke’s former athletic director, that just retired in August, dared to say this about NIL in June of 2020:
“Along with my colleague and friend (Athletic Director) Bubba Cunningham, of the University of North Carolina, I am concerned about potential complications attendant upon the actual implications of NIL legislation,” said Kevin White. “How will it impact recruiting? Will it create an open marketplace in which institutions solicit businesses or boosters to offer ever-escalating endorsement deals to a star high school quarterback or point guard? Will resources from equipment, apparel, and shoe companies be redirected to a relatively few individuals rather than being shared equally among the lesser-known, but no less valuable, Olympic sports?”
White made millions at Duke. Zion Williamson did not.
Think about that the next time you check out your favorite team’s roster and it’s full of new names and faces that have arrived via the transfer portal. Because before you get mad that the “continuity” is dissolving in college sports, remember to reserve your anger for the coaches that benefit from the same trend while dealing with only a small portion of the blowback.