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The Beat of Sports with the voice of UCF Sports Marc Daniels. Delivering sports the way you like it - Weekdays 9a-12p


Daniels: $25-30M For A Signing Class And The Unintended Consequences Coming

Texas A&M Spring Game

Photo: Getty Images

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said it was "insulting" when he ranted recently about accusations that his program had paid to reel in one of the greatest recruiting classes ever. He didn't mention names, but it was clear he was calling out coaches as well in Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin and Alabama's Nick Saban when telling anyone who would listen how some of his rivals in the SEC were active in the transfer portal and convincing high school recruits to choose their school.

The internet message boards and social media channels has many whispers of what Texas A&M might be doing. Did the Aggies' biggest boosters build a pile of cash that allowed assistants to make NIL promises in order to lure players to College Station? Maybe. Maybe not. But even if those rumors are true, there may be nothing wrong with that in today's world of how recruiting works with Name, Image and Likeness.

Depending on what state you are in, a school can work with donors and businesses to assist in setting up NIL deals. States with initial NIL laws that prohibited schools assisting in deals are racing to appeal their laws in order to allow their football programs to compete with their rivals.

Two weeks ago I said Fisher should have said the following:

"Let me tell you about this wonderful place. We have a passionate fan base and incredible donors who love this program and love Texas A&M football. Some of those supporters are very successful business owners, managers, developers in every business you can think of. We have created an incredible NIL program that will allow our players to connect with these industry leaders and create opportunities that could last long after their football career is over. In addition, our players will have a chance to work with them now and learn about business operations, development of products, marketing and many other areas that will benefit them forever. And everything we are doing fits within the guidelines set by our university and compliance department and within the state, federal and NCAA guidelines in place in regards to NIL. The amount of money that has been provided to this program shows the passion our fans and supporters have and you better believe our players are going to benefit because this is an amazing place to play football and get a great education and our goal is to win a national championship on the field and create champions off the field and that's why I want our program to be a leader in NIL and you better believe we have convinced some of the best players in the country to come here because of the NIL program we have set up. Now, you all have a good day."

Fisher didn't say that and many in the media spent hours mocking his rant and fans of rival teams shouted how they just flat out paid players. I don't know what Texas A&M or any other major brand has promised or paid or actually has legitimate NIL deals in place. But it is clear if your team is not raising millions to use to get recruits you are getting left behind.

There are plenty of places you can go read about "collectives" and what they are. It's a fancy way of saying "we have a group of people our program works with that helps find supporters who can bring NIL deals to our program and we are working hard to make sure we are raising seven or eight figures to help in recruiting."

The Athletic's David Ubben(@davidubben) wrote an excellent story titled "Cars, apartments and six-figure packages': Inside the new, money-fueled arms frontier of the college football arms race" 

Ubben takes you on a journey of how, who and how much a top recruiting class might cost and what schools are doing to be competitive. I encourage you to read David's story. He talks with individuals assisting select schools in raising north of $25M to assist with NIL deals and finding plenty of people willing to help. He does an analysis of what's happening at Tennessee and how that school's "collective" is helping give Josh Heupel a competitive NIL program to compete with the best in the SEC.

I have said long before NIL, that I believe players should have the ability of benefitting from their name and that the NCAA rulebook was outdated and a modernized version should open opportunities for players to showcase their skills and market themselves to make money- whether that be from appearing in a video game or conducting a camp.

But there are unintended consequences to anything. NIL right now is a free for all. The NCAA monitors no deals and school compliance departments can't keep up. Is every NIL deal the same? No. Are there players being pitched a dollar amount with the school figuring out later the NIL deal? My guess is likely. But again, there is no one to police any of this.

Maybe this is what everyone wanted when they said let there be a free market and if your school can pay, let them pay, If other schools could not pay, then so be it. But this is not the "free market" of pro sports.

The NBA, NFL and NHL have a salary cap. Even MLB has a tax system. These economic models are used to try and keep a level playing field when it comes to spending. It's designed to not let the largest market teams spend significantly more than smaller market teams. None of these leagues offer a perfect system, but there is a system to create balanced spending.

Even players don't have true free agency. At no point in the career of LeBron James has he ever had true unrestricted free agency. James cannot go on the free market and be offered $100M for a season to play. He has a fixed max amount that his union agreed to along with other players eligible for max deals. In the NFL, a team can pay a player any amount but has a team cap and the more you pay the star quarterback, the less money you have to fill out the rest of the roster.

College football has nothing like this right now. There is no cap to what anyone can or wants to raise and offer. If an SEC school has donors and a collective that want to raise $10M, $20M or $40M to help their program get the best players, there is no one to stop them. 

I was watching Paul Finebaum's show on SEC Network Tuesday when a few callers suggested there should be a salary cap for what schools can raise/offer. Nice try. First off, who sets the number and is it the SEC doing this themselves? Anyone think the SEC would be ok with a system where other leagues might allow their teams to spend more? And if you think all leagues would agree to a number you are out of touch. For starters, they can't agree on a new playoff format and you can't agree on a figure of what you would allow to be paid/offer without collective bargaining and as of today players are not considered employees.

Then you have this unintended consequence of this developing system of raising money for NIL deals to help bring in players: what happens at schools where wealthy donors, who love to play wanna-be-GM, don't like how the season has gone? What happens when a few of them look at some of the players benefitting from the NIL deals they helped create are not performing?

Sure, some of these deals are multi-year deals and no NIL deal is supposed to be connected to performance, but what happens when that coach and his team underperform and go 5-7 instead of 12-0 or 11-1? What happens when that coach goes back to that group of program supporters and says "hey, we need another $25M heading into the recruiting cycle" and the group of donors says no? Game over.

Suddenly you have given power to the "boosters" who basically can determine the coaches fate by turning off the faucet of dollars the coach needs to recruit while the school's biggest rivals are winning those recruiting battles. At some places, boosters already hold the power to get a coach fired. But this model of using donors to assist in the NIL world only is adding to their power. If you don't deliver wins, they don't deliver dollars to support your NIL program. 

There are many other unintended consequences out there. This whole thing is just getting started. It may and, likely will, become something we all understand better and accept as fans of the game. But the amount of money now being used by some schools to get players is greater than anything you thought was being paid "under the table." The deals will only get bigger and players and their families will only get smarter in how to use their leverage.

This is not about the swimmer that wants to offer swimming classes to kids for $10 an hour. No one has any issue with that. This is about a kid who grows up in a poor neighborhood and dreams of going to the big school in his state. Until one day, that school's biggest rival comes along and offers a seven-figure package of NIL deals. It's life changing for him and his family. And you know what the family does next? They pit one school verses the other and drive the price up. Now multiply that by 15-20 players and welcome to the current world of NIL in college football.

Not everyone is doing it this way. Maybe your school is not. Maybe they can't afford to. Maybe your biggest rival is already doing it. For decades people have screamed at the NCAA for their inability of overseeing college athletics and many wished for their demise. Well, the NCAA is still here and now basically a company that puts on championships. As for who is policing all this across college football. That answer is one.

Final thought: The coldest temperature ever recorded was -128.6 fahrenheit on July 21, 1983 in Vostok, Antarctica 

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