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The Only Thing Worse Than Participating In The Ugly New World of NIL …

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff met with congressional leaders this past week, seeking national legislation for uniform Name, Image and Likeness rules.

Why?

Because the NCAA wasn’t able to get its act together and agree to its own set of rules before state laws went into effect last summer.

Did Sankey and Kliavkoff get anywhere?

Of course not.

One of the senators the commissioners met with was Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Blackburn’s statement after the meeting:

“For far too long, the NCAA has refused to allow student-athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL). NCAA president Mark Emmert’s resignation is one of many necessary structural changes that will enable the NCAA to support our student-athletes. During my meeting with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and others today, I continued to push for the accountability and fairness measures our student-athletes deserve.”

Sound like NIL legislation coming down the pipe anytime soon?

So, with Congress a no-go – until after the mid-terms, at the earliest – the NCAA and its members are left to try and regulate themselves.

Seriously.

… (Pause to wait for you to stop laughing) …

Now, it is being reported that an expedited NCAA enforcement process addressing name, image and likeness rights abuses is expected to pass as early as next week.

Gene Smith, the Ohio State athletic director, is a member of a little-known NIL working group formed about two months ago to deal with growing questions of illicit activity. Despite the threat of legal liability, Smith said the NCAA and his subcommittee are determined to put up meaningful guardrails around NIL, which in some cases has edged close to pay-for-play.

The working group’s recommendations submitted this week primarily deal with booster involvement. Several monied boosters have developed “collectives” establish NIL opportunities for athletes. NCAA stakeholders have long been suspicious of such collectives becoming direct inducements for recruits and transfer candidates.

How effective it will be – as the NIL culture chaotically spreads – is up for debate.

“We know we’re going to get lawsuits,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told CBS Sports on Friday.

Way too little, and way too late.

“By preventing boosters/collectives from being involved, the NCAA is acting to reduce compensation earned by athletics,” said Mit Winter, a Kansas City-based attorney who deals in NCAA matters.

Pick your metaphor … The NCAA is trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, or closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out.

Ain’t gonna happen.

The world we now live in – and a world which is likely to remain in place – is a world where, Jordan Addison, a Biletnikoff Award winning wide receiver playing for the ACC champion Pittsburgh Panthers, can enter the Transfer Portal, lured away to play for (in all likelihood) USC.

If the ACC champion cannot hold onto players, what chance does a team like Colorado have for keeping its rising stars?

Two chances – fat and slim.

Buff fans witnessed the brave new world of the Transfer Portal payoffs this off-season, with CU’s leading receiver (Brenden Rice to USC), leading running back (Jarek Broussard to Michigan State) and top defensive backs (Christian Gonzalez to Oregon; Mekhi Blackmon to USC) bolting for greener – quite literally, greener – pastures.

Assuming that the Transfer Portal and NIL money are here to stay in some shape or form, what are teams like Colorado supposed to do?

Well, in CU’s case, more than what is being done …

“Buffs with a Brand”

Colorado set up its “Buffs with a Brand” system over a year ago, with the concept of teaching its student-athletes how to better market themselves, and to pursue NIL options. CU worked with INFCR to set up a clearinghouse so that boosters – er, NIL sponsors – could be cleared to communicate with CU athletes.

In other words, CU put in place a system which was designed to be effective in a world which was supposed to exist in the new world of the Transfer Portal and NIL … but never had a chance of existing.

Other schools and their boosters, not bound by the principles of NIL and what it was intended to allow for, rushed into the void.

We now live in a system where players are openly being played to pay, and recruits are being offered seven-figure contracts to sign on with certain teams. George Kliavkoff and Rick George can pontificate all they want about how inducements are ruining the game, but that doesn’t stop everyone else from using inducements to lure players to their schools.

So, what should CU do?

For starters, get its boosters to form a “collective”, like everyone else is doing.

Rick George is a savvy administrator. He has worked for the Texas Rangers and professional golf tours. He raised $105 million in three years to build the Champions Center, at a school which had never raised more than $15 million in any one year before George returned to Boulder in 2013.

Collectives are not run by the schools, but they are certainly in close contact with the schools – It’s beyond naïve to assume otherwise. Think Texas boosters are going after high school recruits and potential transfers the coaching staff aren’t interested in?

Puh-lease.

Pretty sure Rick George could tell you off the top of his head the names, addresses and phone numbers of CU’s top ten donors. CU can, and should, be actively working on getting a collective formed.

The “CU Collective” could be run through the Buff Club, Buffs4Life, or other CU supporters, with the full knowledge and consent of the CU administration. It could still try and do things the “right way”, by creating business opportunities for Buff athletes, opportunities which are not inducements but genuine compensation packages. It wouldn’t be as successful as the pay-for-play collectives which have been formed, but it beats the crap out of doing nothing.

And yet … CU still doesn’t have a collective.

How in God’s name is that possible?

What can CU be doing differently?

While the “CU Collective” is technically out of the hands of the CU administration, there are plenty of actions the CU athletic department could be undertaking to make CU competitive.

Let’s start with scheduling.

CU will be playing TCU, Air Force and Minnesota in this season’s upcoming non-conference schedule, with two of those games on the road.

UCLA, meanwhile, will be playing Bowling Green, Alabama State, and South Alabama – all at home.

When CU and UCLA meet in the Pac-12 opener on September 24th in Boulder, UCLA will be 3-0, with its team well rested, focused, and having had the kinks worked out in their “preseason” warmups.

CU, meanwhile, will be … what? 1-2? Perhaps 2-1 if you are an optimist. The Buff will be coming off of two straight road games against tough opponents.

Which program will be in better shape come late September?

Yes, I understand the argument that CU needs to have quality non-conference opponents to put butts in the seats and dollars in the coffers.

Three years ago, UCLA hosted Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. A crowd of 52,578 was on hand for the spectacle, along with a national television audience … to watch UCLA get spanked, 48-14.

Last fall, UCLA opened at home against Hawai’i. The crowd? 32,982. UCLA won, 44-10.

The bean counters at the UCLA financial office preferred the LSU game and the 20,000 extra tickets sold.

Which game do you think the Bruin supporters preferred?

CU simply cannot afford to go 1-2 in non-conference play year-in and year-out and expect to go bowling. The Buff program, as it currently is situated, cannot be expected to go 5-4 or better in Pac-12 play (which would be necessary to get to 6-6), a feat which the Buffs have accomplished exactly once since joining the conference in 2011.

And yet … CU has more games scheduled against Power Five non-conference opponents for the remainder of the 2020’s than any other Pac-12 school.

CU can be proud of its tough non-conference scheduling, and its adherence to NIL rules which are supposed to be in place.

And can take its award for doing things the “right way” all the way to the basement of the Pac-12 South … again.

But wait, there’s more …

Pay more for coaches and recruiting

Duh.

Yes, if more money was available, more money could be spent. And yes, I get the irony of advocating for boring wins over G5 non-conference opponents over money making losses to P5 non-conference opponents.

But CU needs to take a long look in the mirror, and decide whether it wants to be a true Power Five conference school – or is willing to accept some sort of relegation when the top 24-36 schools break off to form an elite brand of college football where the dollars, and stakes, are higher.

The big time donors who stepped up to build the Champions Center have to step up again.

The CU assistant coach pool will top $3.5 million this year, the highest total in school history.

It needs to be doubled.

Just like CU lost Christian Gonzalez, Brenden Rice, and Jarek Broussard, the Buffs lost Demetrice Martin and Vic So’oto … and Jim Leavitt … and Mel Tucker.

It’s all about the dollars. Either pay to play, or leave the table.

I did an interview with CU defensive lineman Jalen Sami recently (podcast to be posted next Sunday, the 15th). Sami still has two years of eligibility remaining, yet he is not only on his third head coach, he is on his sixth position coach at CU.

No one can look at that turnover and expect great results from its student-athletes.

You want better results? Pay to hire – and retain – quality coaches.

There are other topics of conversation, including making it easier for transfers to get into CU, but that will have to wait for another day, as I have rambled on too long already.

I, like many members of the Buff Nation, am beyond frustrated. It’s like a malaise has descended upon the CU fan base, one I haven’t seen since at least back to the Jon Embree years, and perhaps as far back as the baby blue years in the early 80’s.

CU is not only losing, but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious path for that to change. If CU has some sophomore breakout this fall (Nikko Reed? Montana Lemonious-Craig? Jayle Stacks?) whose to say that they will still be wearing black-and-gold in 2023? Karl Dorrell could build a program, but not if his top players (and top young assistant coaches) have to be replaced every off-season.

College football is out of control. Top programs are simply buying up the best players, and the NCAA seems to be in no hurry to corral the worst offenders (as Rick George pointed out in a podcast interview this past week with John Canzano, the rules against inducements are already there in the NCAA By-laws. They’re just not being enforced.

And any attempt to do so now will be met with lawsuits (You’re going to tell a Texas offensive lineman that he can be paid $50,000 to breathe in 2022, but not in 2023? Plaintiffs’ lawyers will fall all over themselves filing lawsuits asserting their clients’ rights to make money off of their Name, Image and Likeness are being infringed upon by the NCAA enforcement of its rules).

So, if CU is not going to be reduced to a glorified G5 school, and act as a minor league feeder program for USC and Oregon, it has to get in the game. CU may not like the current landscape of college football, but it can’t compete by standing on the sidelines and allowing other schools to take its best players and coaches.

The only thing worse than being an active participant in the shady new world of the Transfer Portal and NIL pay-for-play … is not participating at all.

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10 Replies to “The Only Thing Worse Than Participating In The Ugly New World of NIL …”

  1. College football is broken. Never been a NFL fan but they have a competitive business model that works. NCAA does not. It’s just a really bad joke. And getting much worse.

  2. The point want an academic competition….just an attempt a level football field. the only common with academics was for schools who dont want to be in the football rat race.

  3. Collective or no collective, over the past few decades IMO, CU has not demonstrated the donor base that competes in the Top-2/3 of the P65 teams–that is a hard fact to swallow. Stuart’s article hits on it, ‘RG was able to raise $105M in 3 years to build the Champions Center and before 2013 they never raised more the $15M in a year.’ It just doesn’t seem CU has ever had the big booster base enjoyed by other schools, probably throughout history. I think MAC did it with his Charisma, sold Boulder, and once we started getting results it was the “CU family.” When Hawk flailed, they went to EMBO because they did not have the money, but there were certainly some other factors at play too. Now that it is the Wild West with NIL, I just don’t think CU has the donor base to effectively compete. I’d love for a T. Boone Pickens type to emerge, but beyond that I think things will unfortunately be bleak for the immediate future.

  4. Pay for play isn’t going anywhere. It has always been there. Now, the only differences are, it is out in the open and the dollar amounts have exploded, as a result. Hiding a loaner car or fifty grand is easier than hiding $350k or $3mill.

    “Hey, my coaches can leave any time they want, for more money. You’re telling me I can’t?”

    Good luck trying to win that battle in court.

    Oh but college football and other sports are for student athletes. Yeah. Right. Many graduate with barely being able to read and write coherently.

    This is headed to a national players union, a national coaching salary cap (ten mill a year seems to be the current top) and kids being able to test the free market for their services, if they are inclined.

    CU can still play in that league. Plenty o wealthy supporters. And they need to focus on the financial education and well being of those athletes as a differentiating factor. That will resonate with many (and their parents) vs, the million dollar flashes in the pan who are dead broke after their 2nd acl surgery.

    Go Buffs

  5. Things can be improve for the Buffs…. Utah has shown that you don’t need to be a powerhouse to have some success and Boyle has done miraculous things with MBB. The turnaround needs to start with Rick George… he needs to orchestrate the financial resources that are out there to change the status quo. Us ‘old timers’ remember when Baylor football in the Big-12 was a chronic joke… they aren’t anymore because they decided they didn’t want to be a joke anymore

  6. Unfortunately Stuart your article is the truth that we don’t want to hear. I have never been less enthused about an upcoming college football season than this year. Not just for CU but for the whole college football mess. The only reasons for going to games are seeing Ralphie, the beautiful views, and seeing old friends. The competitive balance is even further away than ever. It seems like we are entering a time of mourning for the end of college sports. Very sad!

  7. CU or any other Power 5 is never going to willingly drop to a G5/FCS level. It is a difference $50+ million in media revenue (when the next PAC contract is finalized) per year vs. $5 – 10 million per year for a MWC school like CSU. Follow the money it usually leads to the answer.

  8. The unfortunate part is that I can’t blame any of the aforementioned players for leaving, as I personally am not entirely convinced $$ was the driving factor, but rather a nice bonus.

    Ultra-competitive people hate to lose, more than they like to win. Last year’s team was light years from just being competitive…terrible feeling for us watching, can’t imagine what it felt like for the core players.

  9. Googled this:
    https://www.on3.com/news/top-25-highest-spending-college-football-programs-nation-richest-ohio-state-michigan-texas-alabama/
    Ohio State spent the most in 2019-2020 for an galactic amount of 215 million dollars…….
    Oregon was 25th on the list at 120 million
    Howell said CU budgeted 65 million last year
    I dont see much hope for the Buffs to advance very far up the list. Too many people have come to this state bringing their hometown and personal baggage with them.
    Maybe an alternative would be for the more academically oriented schools west of the Mississippi to form their own conference. Besides the Buffs maybe with:
    UC Berkeley
    Stanford
    Northwestern
    Rice
    and maybe
    UCLA unless they decide to try and go with the bigguns
    Air force
    Tulane
    Washington

    As things are heading now it might have to be at the FCS level.
    Never thought I would say this but after reading Stuart’s article and seeing what these schools are actually spending it would have to be a miracle for CU to keep up with the FBS. It would be better than getting the crap beat out of them which would only serve to diminish revenue further

    1. What exactly would be the benefit for CU is they formed an “academically focused” conference? CU wouldn’t be a part of that. CU cannot even sniff those schools you mentioned, not to mention their academic standing continues fall…no matter how much we like to trumpet CU’s academics.

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