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MWCConnection Roundtable: What do you think about NIL in college sports?

Mountain West Football Championship - Boise State v San Jose State Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Name Image and Likeness (NIL) guidelines have been around for under a year and seem poised to change the landscape of college football for the foreseeable future. So for this week’s question, we ask: Almost a year in, what do you think about NIL in college sports? And what would you change to improve it?

Jos: I think it is an alright thing for college sports, but it is even better for the businesses and the communities certain colleges are in. Listen I know I’m the contributor/writer for UNLV, but I grew up in Fresno. I don’t know about other communities, but there is something about Fresno where they just fall in love with players from the Valley, especially the football players. Derek and David Carr are like kings whenever they come to Fresno for anything. Now, going back to NIL, right now, Jake Haener is starting to have that Carr brother status in Fresno, because he is winning. If he were to sign an NIL deal with a local restaurant or any other business, I could put money on more people will start going to that place of business. It is all business in the end. I don’t know really all the things that go into NIL deals so I don’t know much about improving it. One thing, however, would be to make sure the players are still seen as people and not a business tool. I could see in the future that happening with these athletes and they not understanding what is happening because they are just kids.

Lute: My view on this might be a little controversial, but I don’t like where this NIL stuff is headed. I’m all for a college kid, especially one who grew up in poverty, making some money. If people are willing to give a kid a few bucks for an autograph or a picture, I’m all for that. But businesses being able to give kids however much money they want is hurting the sport. We think Alabama and the SEC had a recruiting edge before NIL? Now these schools get to essentially say, “Hey, if you sign with me, our school can get you deals that will pay more than other schools.” It’s not recruiting at this point, it’s free agency. I also don’t like how this looks from a “what do we value” standpoint. The athletes have always been the big dogs on campus, so to speak. But now? There’s going to be kids making millions of dollars walking around at places like Tuscaloosa and Ann Arbor. Listen, I’m one of the biggest sports fanatics you could ever meet, but at some point, what are we valuing as a society? If I was a kid going to school to become a doctor, or lawyer, or teacher, and I’m eating ramen every night knowing once I graduate I’ll be in a pile of debt, I’m going to have major animosity towards these athletes who not only are getting their entire education paid for, but now they’re making more money than I ever will in my professional career, simply because they can run fast, or throw a ball far. I don’t know. I understand that a lot of college athletes come from really tough areas and really struggle to get by in college, but I can’t help think that things are really going to change for the worse. Both for the college experience, and for the fans who want competitive balance in the sport. When I see an incoming freshman Quarterback at Ohio State making millions of dollars before he even steps foot on campus, I shake my head, because I know this is going to ruin the sport I love.

Zach: It’s great for the kids, bad for the game. The rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer. Big programs have been doing this for a long time and now it just allows them to do it legally. I like what Boise State is doing with putting the athletes’ names on the back of the shirts and selling them with proceeds going to athletes. But I’m not sure how I feel about million-dollar endorsement deals. I’m on record saying I don’t like the NFL product. I don’t want college football to become more like the NFL.

Jeremy: Ultimately, I’m all for the pendulum swinging back to athletes for once. The athletes have power now, and that’s for the best. Yes, it’s concerning seeing the likes of Hawaii, Nevada, and Wyoming football be gouged by this new one-time transfer rule, but I think the effects of that will begin to subside in the coming years when negative stories arise. It’s only a matter of time before the “Group of 5 athlete promised playing time at Power 5 school is lied to” stories come out.

As for NIL, yes some of these 6, 7 figure numbers coming out are concerning but here’s the thing: the Boise State’s of the world weren’t competing for those types of recruits anyway. Most NIL deals will be more modest than that, and will offer Group of 5 schools the chance to pitch themselves in new ways to athletes.

Aiden: I fully support NIL and its intended purpose. Young adults now have the chance to set themselves up for life and to thank their parents for everything they sacrificed. At least, that’s what was supposed to happen. Instead, a pure lack of guidelines by the NCAA and the federal government has let college football become the “Wild West”. Is it neat to see Doug Edert get a Buffalo Wild Wings sponsorship after St. Peter’s run to the Elite 8? Absolutely! Is it exciting to see Texas A&M sign the best recruiting class in the 247 Sports era? Not so much. With no regulations in place, the only difference between the environment now and in 1987 is that deals were performed “under the table”. What was the purpose of handing SMU the “Death Penalty” when they paid players like Eric Dickerson to come to Dallas? That is the crux of the issue. To me, there are two paths college athletics can take. The first option is to allow players to use their name to profit once they are enrolled in a collegiate program. The second is to continue as the system is currently structured and instead of secretly giving envelopes of cash to recruits, it will just happen in broad daylight.

The biggest change I would make to the current system of NIL is to prohibit any talks between recruits and businesses that are tied to a given educational institution. Let the recruit make a decision based on the program, academics, and fit. Once they are on campus and enrolled at an institution, then they can do whatever they want with the businesses and brands associated with the school. Choosing a college is a massive step and having millions of dollars thrown at an 18 year old is not the way we should be going about this.

NittanyFalcon: The NCAA needs to find a better way to let players be rewarded for the effort they put in and the revenue they bring in. All major professional sports have some kind of system that at least attempts to maintain a competitive level playing field. I don’t put any thought into what that system might be, I just want to watch student athletes engage in a sport that contributes to their physical health, interpersonal skills, leadership abilities, and determination. I don’t want to see kids at this age being encouraged to think that money solves all problems.

Mike: I echo a lot of the sentiments above. I like the idea of NIL but things are getting messy in a hurry due to unintended outcomes.

Players should be able to make some money. Some of these things were already happening illegally and now can occur within legal guidelines. I’m all for college athletes doing commercials, sponsoring tweets, signing autographs, or doing camps and getting compensated for it. Thinking back to my college days, it’s nice to have some spending money. And if some players have more spending money than others, I’m mostly okay with that.

NIL was meant to be a recruiting tool but it was not meant to be recruiting. The backdoor deals of “we will give you $500K (or more) to come play for us” is not the intent and is not a good outcome for this. Like it is said above, this type of stuff likely mostly affects the blue blood programs anyway but it still puts a damper on the sport, especially with how it is tied to the transfer portal (which has it’s own warts and unintended consequences). This is where the NCAA hasn’t and needs to step in. Some universal regulations would help slow things down.

At the end of the day, the pendulum swinging in the favor of the players (for perhaps the first time) is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have more regulation to keep it from getting too out of hand.