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NIL, transfer portal taking on circus atmosphere

BYU’s Kalani Sitake offers advice; NCAA, coaches looking for guidelines to help with NIL, recruiting

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BYU coach Kalani Sitake discusses Built Brands’ name, image and likeness agreement with BYU on Aug. 13, 2021, in Provo, Utah.

BYU football coach Kalani Sitake discusses Built Brands’ name, image and likeness agreement with BYU during a press conference at the BYU Student Athlete Building in Provo on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As many predicted, the NIL program has become a monster in college recruiting.

Nobody should begrudge college athletes making money by endorsing stuff. Using their name, image and likeness to bring in some coin is a fine idea. It’s only fair since universities and coaches are making millions off their labor.

But what’s happening now is getting out of hand. The high school class of 2023 will be the first to maneuver money packages as part of their scholarships and college destination. It has become a circus complete with organ grinder monkey boosters.

Now, college administrators and coaches are demanding tweaks and more guidelines.

College coaches in the state of Utah are currently met with discussions of NIL opposing offers from recruits in the realm of a quarter of a million dollars or more. One Pac-12 school allegedly has a “collective” telling recruits if they sign, players can text “Thanks, United,” and their parents can fly free to games.

One Division I coach told CBS sports columnist Dennis Dodd the first thing out of the mouth of a recruit was the big ask. Tweeted Dodd: “One Power 5 coach told me, right now in recruiting the process STARTS with NIL “negotiations.”

That coach is disgusted.”

The Athletic reviewedthree contracts signed by athletes with different collectives associated with Power Five schools. A four-star receiver will receive $1 million over four years. A defensive lineman ranked in the top 10 will get $1 million over three years and a three-star lineman will get $500,000 over four years.  

Stewart Mandell reportedon a five-star 2023 recruit who signed a deal for $8 million with a collective.

This issue, plus the nutzoid traffic in the transfer portal, has brought instability to rosters and upended chemistry on football and basketball teams. It is a real thing.

The freedom to make money and to be more mobile as a college player started out as a noble right, confirmed by the Supreme Court.

Now, we’re living with the results. It’s turned into a trough of piggish selfishness and put boosters in control of college sports.

Miami’s Isaiah Wong really stepped in it last week when he reportedly threatened to enter the transfer portal because his lucrative NIL deal with LifeWallet appeared to be surpassed by an incoming transfer recruit. He had to clean it up later because he looked greedy and stupid. 

Dodd reported through Twitter the American Football Coaches Association will recommend the NCAA create two transfer portal windows instead of the current wide-open nine-month period. One window would be from the last Sunday in November to the early signing date — or five days after a player’s bowl game. The second window would be April 15 through May 1. “Coaches would go ga-ga over this.”

This week in Arizona, NCAA officials and the presidents council that governs the NCAA are discussing new guidelines to end what has become a rodeo of boosters actually getting involved in recruiting and offering “pay to play” deals to recruits.

According to a report in SI.com on this meeting, “In a seminal chapter in a seismic moment for college sports, the recommendations and potential subsequent investigations could have sweeping impacts on the current landscape, where individual donors (directives) and groups of donors (collectives) have been communicating with prospects or their agents to arrange NIL deals.

“Sports Illustrated spoke to more than two dozen college sports stakeholders over the past six months for a wide-ranging story that revealed the unregulated, high-priced bidding wars for college football and men’s basketball players.”

Locally, the issue is becoming a challenge as coaches at Utah, BYU, Utah State and Weber State are discovering when they court talent. It’s one thing to find a deal that works through an outside collective. It’s another to find out what rival recruiters are telling prospects.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake did a radio interview recently and it resulted in a pull quote being published over RedditCFB that made the rounds. It was not meant to be flattering. That’s why it was taken out of context.

Here is exactly what Sitake said and elaborated upon about NIL, transcribed by Ben Criddle on ESPN960.

“I think there has to be a level of amateurism to it. I don’t know if money is the answer to everything. I don’t know if a young 18/19-year-old is supposed to have that much money in their bank account.  

“Maybe there’s a way they can put it in an investment fund for the future. I don’t know if the first date for a college student should be going to some steakhouse like Ruth’s Chris. There’s nothing wrong with that but what are you going to do for the second date? Go to the Bahamas?

“The expectations for a college student sometimes are just to learn to budget, be on a budget and have a connection, hang out with your buddies, and have a connection that doesn’t rely on money. I believe that a college football player shouldn’t have any student debt, which is why I really like the thought that Built (Bar) came in and relieved all of our walk-ons from paying tuition.

“We’re trying to make NIL work for the team, and if we can do that, if someone makes a little more money because of their NIL, that’s great, but it’s a team sport, and we’ve got to be focused on taking care of the least of our brethren. 

“When we do that, we care about them, and it makes you a better team and a better teammate. I like the camaraderie and connection and culture we have on our program right now and I think it’s important we as coaches and administrators make sure we govern it as much as we can and that we give players the experience and not just throw a bunch of money at them.” 

Sitake offered a reasoned, well-balanced thought about what may benefit the student-athlete and how finances can work for a long-term benefit.

Heaven knows money itself isn’t the answer.

We have only to look to our multimillion-dollar star athletes in sports to find bankruptcy and lost fortunes.

Money,Inc.com did a story on lost fortunes of athletes who went broke. The names included Vince Young, Mike Tyson, John Daly, Dennis Rodman, Sheryl Swoopes, O.J. Simpson, Dorothy Hamill, Lawrence Taylor, Johnny Unitas, Rollie Fingers, Mark Brunell and Warren Sapp.

There’s money, then there’s the team.

There’s money, then there’s actual financial wealth.

Boosters have been set loose. Many are in a feeding frenzy paying kids.

It might help to have more guidelines and more sanity for this new freedom.