Just when you thought college football couldn’t be a bigger mess, that things couldn’t possibly be more disruptive and confusing thanks to NIL, the transfer portal and realignment — now the sport is trying to double down on it.
Item 1 — A players advocacy group met with the Big Ten Conference and asked for a share of the media rights revenues, as well as more medical benefits.
Item 2 — The Division I Council has passed a recommendation to the NCAA that it lift the one-time transfer limitation via the transfer portal and allow multiple transfers — players could play for four schools in four years.
And the difference between professional football and college football continues to grow smaller, if not unrecognizable.
CBS reports that it has received a list of demands that the College Football Players Association has passed on to the Big Ten (CFBPA is a player advocacy organization). According to CBS, those demands include a percentage of media rights revenue for the players and increased medical benefits during and after their eligibility. That doesn’t mean it will happen — the CFBPA doesn’t even officially represent the players, as near as we can tell — but usually when these things come up, it’s just a matter of time.
“We are in the process of formalizing a student-athlete advisory committee to seek input from our student-athletes about the changing landscape of college athletics,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said.
The latest demands, if they can be called that at this point, began with a meeting between Jason Stahl, executive director of the CFBPA, and Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. Clifford passed them on to teammates during a players meeting in early July. Clifford tweeted that he also had met with Warren “about the changing landscape of college sports.”
He called the CFBPA’s proposals “interesting ideas” but noted that for now he and the other players will continue to work at the “campus and conference level to address the complexities of collegiate athletics for student-athletes.” He also said the three proposals “are just the base of what we’d like to do. In reality, we think there is more that could happen.”
The question is whether there is enough media rights money to share, but there is incentive for the conference to make it work; as CBS notes, it would give the league a recruiting advantage.
On top of the so-called NIL rule (name, image, likeness), this would add to the growing financial gains for players and exacerbate the problems already manifested by NIL — luring players from other schools to join another school with the promise of NIL riches.
All of which is facilitated by the transfer portal, which has paved the way for thousands of players to change schools. Currently, the NCAA allows a one-time transfer without being required to redshirt a season. The change proposed by the Division I council would allow unlimited transfers. Academic requirements for more than one transfer will make it difficult, but not impossible; otherwise, athletes can transfer as many times as they want.
“A kid can go as many times as he wants and doesn’t have to graduate? Wow,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher told CBS Sports. “It’s just open recruitment of your own players (by other schools). Everybody can recruit (them). That’s what they’re doing with third parties anyway, with agents. Agents are coming in saying, ‘I can get you a better deal here.’”
The NCAA board of directors usually follows the recommendations of the council and is expected to do just that when it meets Aug. 3.
“People have to realize that, yeah, there could be a person that plays for four teams, four different years,” players rights advocate David Ridpath told CBS. “At the end of the day, that’s their right until the NCAA wants to sit down and collectively bargain restrictions with the athlete.”
Collective bargaining. Unions. Revenue sharing. Agents. Promotional contracts. Where have we heard this before? The college game is becoming a professional league, one that could actually rival the NFL given the stronger, more emotional ties people have to universities as opposed to NFL teams.
Ridpath calls it the players’ “right” to transfer will-nilly, but that’s wrong. Sports operate differently than the rest of the world, and it has to. As noted here many times, every sport requires restrictions on player movement from team to team to maintain some level of competitiveness. This is true in Little League, high school and the NFL — but not in college football, where players have more freedom of movement than the pro players. This is just another rich-get-richer change to the way the game operates, and it will turn the game upside down, as we are beginning to see.
Tom Mars, a lawyer who has worked on transfer cases previously, echoed the feelings of many when he told CBS, “Having been a strident leader for the rights of college athletes, I never anticipated they would go this far.”
It seems likely to go much farther before it’s finished.