In this recruiting cycle 18-year-old football recruits are receiving million-dollar name, image and likeness deals and coaches across the country are in a quandary as to how to handle what has become an out-of-control locomotive.

This was highlighted during the summer when Alabama head coach Nick Saban told boosters that Texas A&M was simply buying players.  That didn’t sit well with Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher, who immediately called Saban a hypocrite.

All of Utah’s in-state university programs have faced situations where the first thing out of the mouth of a prospect is how much money can they make in a NIL deal. It has become a rite of passage in the discussion.

It’s uncomfortable.

It’s a nuisance.

It is a sign of the times.

It’s a challenge.

It’s captialism at its finest.

It’s the player’s best friend.

It’s fair. It is unfair.

It is a different game.

It kind of defines what a recruit is looking for as a future teammate and player and it isn’t setting well with veteran coaches across the country. Things once forbidden to talk about are now a big part of the conversation.

At BYU’s football media day, the topic came up and athletic director Tom Holmoe made it clear some guidance is needed and some boundaries set.

“It has gotten crazy,” Holmoe said. “I think Kalani (Sitake) has a stable look at the NIL. I think our players feel good about it. We have a number of players with individual deals. I think people look at NIL as black and white. I am more for it. But there are rules that have to be changed.”

Assistant head coach Ed Lamb gave a very good explanation of how Sitake and Holmoe are looking at the added opportunities for athletes — those that don’t get out of control.

“There are so many variables,” said Lamb. “Some schools kind of establish being out in front of NIL like Texas A&M has gotten a lot of publicity for what they’re doing because of Nick Saban’s comments. We see it too, as we’re recruiting. A lot of the guys that we have offered have other offers of inducement for ‘X’ amount of dollars to go and play for ‘X’ school.

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“That’s all fine and great and that’s taking advantage of a rule that exists  — or no rule against it may be a better way to say it — but I don’t know of a connection that has been established yet that shows bringing in freshmen on a salary wins your games.”

Lamb has a good point. If you bring in a freshman and pay him through a NIL deal established by an outside collective, it’s not proven that a rookie is going to make that big of an impact immediately — especially when working in a team atmosphere where others may not be receiving as much.

That’s some big-time drama and pressure. My words, not Lamb’s.

But it is a big-time question for Lamb.

“I have not seen at BYU or any place that I’ve worked where a highly recruited freshman came in and supplanted older and more developed players in the lineup. Sitake and BYU’s administration agree. 

“We are not going to build this team from the young guys up with the money. I think we are going to have to build this team from the bottom up with veteran guys who are already in the program.”

Lamb said the question for the university is what can be done in funding, what can be built to help ease loads and make athletes feel appreciated and valued. “I think the NCAA is moving in that direction.

“Whether the money is put into recruiting (an inducement) or not remains to be answered but I’m willing to bet my livelihood that that isn’t the secret to becoming a producer.”

There are a lot of models being discussed that can help athletes manage NIL income. One idea is placing money into an account and having an athlete produce and work for it and realize a pot of gold at graduation. 

It may not be the best human development move to shower a kid with cars, luxur, and boxes of cash right out of the chute and expect him to carry a football team and survive the politics of a locker room.

Universities should have great resources with alumni in and outside of NIL deals to help with financial planning for an athlete who achieves sudden wealth. That kind of education is critical for everyone, including middle-aged workers and retirees.

The Supreme Court has knocked down the NCAA’s ability to limit an athlete’s livelihood from name, likeness, and image. That also means the governing body cannot limit a high school athlete’s freedom to pursue income.

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But Lamb said in his way of thinking, ‘It is immaterial because as hard as we want to work in recruiting we still believe that the best team is made from getting the best players you can bring in and working them as hard as you possibly can.” He believes BYU is on the same page.

The biggest part of this challenge is inducement. It’s  a nice way of saying pay for play, and buying players. It wasn’t supposed to get to that. But it’s hip deep in it now.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith believes NIL is working for a lot of parties.

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“NIL is working largely in a whole lot of places,” Smith told CBS Sports. “Of course, no one writes about those. Everybody’s reporting on the plane crashing. I understand that, but the reality is we need to come up with a strategy to deal with inducements.”

So, many of the elite 12 programs that dominate college football are continuing to do what they’ve always done — induce. Now it’s with the blanket of authority and permission.’’

Others are trying to manage it, and take advantage of it. Still, others are not letting the tail wag the dog. But truth be told, schools have to use NIL, even nuture it.

It is an interesting study in amateur athletics that is clashing with big business in the shadow of professionalism, and a free agency-like transfer portal that is nuts.

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