At the conclusion of national signing day for college football recruits, Alabama football coach Nick Saban says he laments the new “name, image, and likeness” (NIL) compensation policy for players, saying “when we start using NIL for a kid to come to our school, that’s where I draw the line, because that’s not why we did this”. OK, Coach, why did we do this, and what exactly did you expect but the obvious “unintended” consequence? Ole Miss Coach Lane Kiffin only half facetiously joked, “will Texas A&M (which had the nationally top-rated recruiting class) incur a luxury tax on how much they paid their recruiting class?” And, even closer to home for me, it was announced that several UT-Austin alumni have founded Horns With Hearts, a non-profit organization that will pay $50,000 annually to every UT scholarship offensive lineman on the football team as compensation for NIL time and effort dedicated to worthwhile charitable work; presumably, other positions will follow. And Saban is surprised that it has become such that players are weighing prospective NIL earnings among schools and “we all gotta make a deal”? Give me a break.
The new NCAA constitution, approved by the membership last month, states: “Student-athletes may not be compensated by a member institution for participating in a sport, but may receive educational and other benefits in accordance with guidelines established by their NCAA division”. So what crosses the line for Mr. Saban? The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has recommended moving major college football from NCAA jurisdiction and creating a separate organization to govern the 130 schools competing in Division I, which makes immediate sense, since the NCAA has pretty much abdicated its governance role anyway and most of the top tier of this division, for all intents and purposes, will have soon crossed the compensation line into professionalism, at least for football. We’ve been on this path for at least four decades and, sadly, have finally arrived.