Tipsheet: NIL money, tampering turn college football recruiting into ugly scramble | Jeff Gordon

The college football marketplace has turned into a chaotic free-for-all, to the surprise of almost nobody.

Once the NCAA granted that athletes can cash in on their name, image and likeness, over-the-table payments replaced the under-the-table commerce many programs engaged in during recruiting.

Once the NCAA conceded that athletes should be able to transfer once without sitting out a year, tampering shifted into high gear.

As a result, college football rosters are in constant flux. Coaches are squawking and the NCAA has become even more incapable of maintaining order than usual.

Alabama coach Nick Saban is shocked – shocked! –by what he is seeing.

“I hear these crazy people on TV who say now you’re doing it above board,” he told reporters at the Senior Bowl. “We never did it. We never did it. We never cheated to get a player. We never paid players to come to our school.

“And now that’s actually happening. People are making deals with high school players to go to their school.”

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Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin lamented that his program can’t keep up with the power schools on NIL deals.

“In free agency in the NFL, players usually go to the most money,” Kiffin noted during a news conference. “Every once in a while, they don’t because they already have a bunch of money. Well, these kids are 17 and 18 years old. They’re going to go where they’re paid the most. I’m not complaining , it just is what is. Wherever there’s things created, there’s a lot of times problems people didn’t think about. You just legalized paying players, like people used to cheat.”

Under legal duration, the NCAA gave that green light. Now it is looking into some of the NIL excesses in college football.

“We’re not enforcing NIL deals, and we’re not enforcing the interim policy, which is largely permissive,” NCAA Vice President of Enforcement Jon Duncan told the Associated Press. “We’re looking at rules that are still on the books and behaviors that are still violations.”

Yeah, well, good luck at that.

Over the years the NCAA has been either unable or unwilling to control the cash-and-carry recruiting at the highest level of the sport. Instead it occasionally stepped on a program, usually a less prominent one, for relatively minor violations.

That way the NCAA could pretend it had things under control. These days it can’t even pretend.

“Somehow they’re going to, I bet, try to control NIL because now you’ve got these salary caps at places, giving players millions of dollars before they ever play, and other places not being able to do that,” Kiffin said . “What would the NFL look like if there were a couple of teams in the NFL where their salary cap was 10 times more than everybody else’s salary cap? That’s where we’re headed, so they’re going to have to do something.”

As for the transfer issue, lesser programs are watching the big schools pick over their roster. CBSSports.com noted that top players at places like Central Michigan and Buffalo are under siege from Power 5 Conference programs.

“Tampering is always going to be a concern,” said Kansas Lance Leipold, a former Buffalo coach. “Even our guys at Buffalo, in some ways they’re crazy not to [consider their options]. Not because of NIL, it’s resources and development and all that. Nobody wants to see a bunch of programs become someone else’s junior college.”

Here is what folks are writing about the marketplace:

pete thamel, ESPN.com: “With Oklahoma transfer quarterback Caleb Williams choosing USC as his destination to play college football, it marks a significant moment in college athletics. Williams will essentially be remembered as the first high-profile free agent in the history of college football. His trip from him to the NCAA transfer portal accentuates the collision of the two new market forces approved by the NCAA within the past year that have indelibly altered college athletics: the one-time transfer exemption and the ability for athletes to profit off of their name , image and likeness. And that left Williams, a freshman All-American, and his family from him the ability to spend nearly a month exploring options for school in a completely new paradigm. Carl Williams, Caleb’s dad, maintained throughout his son’s trip into the portal that the ability for his son to be developed into the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft would be the guiding factor in the family’s decision. Just like when he was recruited in high school, development was the priority. Not money. Carl Williams often quipped: ‘NFL, not NIL.’ Williams, according to experts, should have the capability to make millions of dollars off of his NIL from him. And being a star in the Los Angeles market should only amplify that. Williams and his family stress that he was not up for bid to schools. As Williams told ESPN, NIL money ‘didn’t have any impact on my decision,’ and he said he hopes to use his platform at USC will ‘make sure my teammates will be able to get what they deserve.’”

Chris Hummer, 247 Sports: “Had (coach Lincoln) Riley whiffed on Williams and overplayed his Jaxson Dart hand, he would have started at USC in a hole of his own creation. Instead, one of the most talented players in all of college football will be on hand to start the Riley era in Los Angeles with a bang. And like Williams’ initial commitment to the Sooners, his move from him to Los Angeles should be met with literal fireworks. Williams, a 247Sports True Freshman All-American, is a quarterback meant for La La Land. He’s Hollywood. His personality fits the Trojan brand: bigger than life and with plenty of swagger. ”

R.J. Young, FoxSports.com: “The tension between management (coaches and administrators) and labor (players) in college football has never been so fractious. All this while coaches, players and the NCAA at-large continue to grapple with Name, Image and Likeness legislation as elected officials at the state and federal levels look to develop their own remedies. The business of this sport — hiring, firing, transfers, signings, NIL — is becoming more visible and displays the uglier part of modern college football. The second recruitment of Williams, in which he was reported to be entertaining not just USC but also Georgia, LSU, OU and even Wisconsin, is normal now. With National Signing Day on Wednesday, college football fans are getting used to the idea that players are likely to be recruited twice in their college football careers — once when entering college and again the day they enter the portal.”

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com: “Power Five programs poaching Group of Five schools for talent is nothing new, but the practice has been accelerated in the age of the portal. The portal debuted in October 2018 eliminating the arcane — and possibly illegal — requirement that schools or coaches ‘release’ players from their scholarships. Then, beginning in April 2021, the NCAA began allowing all athletes to transfer once in their career without restriction. That did away with the decades-old ‘year in residence’ that required athletes to sit out a year before competing at a new school. Three months later, on July 1, the name, image and likeness was begun. All of it combined to create a transfer environment on steroids. If tampering — the practice of coaches attempting to woo outside players to their program — was a problem before, it’s a chronic ethical issue now. There is also an emerging culture where NIL compensation deals for recruits and transfers are openly discussed/offered by coaches. It’s a gray area at least, an improper inducement at worst.”

Connor O’Gara, Saturday Down South: “Go back to what you thought of Brian Kelly a short 2 months ago. Like, before he left Notre Dame to become a social media influencer. I mean, before he left Notre Dame to become LSU’s football coach. Kelly was the red-faced dude who didn’t go viral for recruiting videos. Kelly would go viral for things like attempting to make a joke about executing his team — that was a callback to a John McKay quote when he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 — in a postgame press conference after it held on to beat Florida State in the 2021 season-opener. Kelly was sometimes short with reporters, and he had a tendency to be viewed as somewhat icy after losses. Great football coach? Sure. Any fun-loving personality traits? Pre-LSU, not so much. That’s partially why there’s been such a shock factor to the 60-year-old appearing in commitment videos and going viral in the process. . . na way, it’s reminiscent of Jim Harbaugh’s start from him at Michigan. Harbaugh did whatever he could to go viral on the recruiting trail. He went shirtless at satellite camps, he slept over at a kicker recruit’s house, he jumped into a pool in full khaki… the guy was all about doing buzz-worthy things. Middle-aged football coach goes full kid mode, looks more relatable and changes his reputation. Who did I just describe, Harbaugh or Kelly?”

“We don’t have the same funding resources as some of these schools do for these NIL deals. It’s basically dealing with different salary caps. Now we have a sport that has completely different salary caps and some of these schools have, whatever, five to 10 times more than everyone else in what they can pay the players. I know nobody uses those phrases, but that is what it is.”

Kiffin, on the marketplace.

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