The changes have been many and unrelenting, coming at college sports from different directions like an octopus with giant tentacles threatening to squeeze out whatever life is left. College sports currently exist in a lawless landscape, free of all restraints and racing down roads never before traveled without really understanding where they are going.
The potential damage is frightening, changing and reshaping college sports, particularly football, into an unrecognizable form devoid of any connection with its past. There have always been excesses in college sports, but never anything like this.
And the idea of using college sports to prepare players for the future is nearly gone and may soon disappear entirely as buying athletes to win games becomes the primary – and seemingly only – objective.
Although players are allowed to capitalize on name, image and likeness once they are enrolled in school, you’re not supposed to use it to recruit prospects, but that hasn’t stopped the infusion of cash that now controls college football and basketball.
The results of this are staggering. Before he ever started a single game at Alabama, quarterback Bryce Young had already signed NIL deals worth nearly $ 1 million.
Ohio State Coach Ryan Day recently told boosters it will cost around $ 13 million in NIL money to keep a championship roster intact. Day said about $ 2 million was needed for a premier quarterback and a quality edge rusher or left tackle would command about $ 1 million.
If championships can be bought, then billionaire John Ruiz has his sights set on buying one for Miami. Immediately after transferring to the Hurricanes, point guard Nijel Pack signed a two-year, $ 800,000 contract with one of Ruiz’s companies. Ruiz also threw in a car and he’s not the only player Ruiz is bankrolling.
So where does this stop? It doesn’t. Ole Miss Coach Lane Kiffin has suggested that players be paid outright for their services with the best players getting the most money. A salary cap, he says, might be imposed to help control costs. Kiffin says college football has morphed into a professional sport so why not act accordingly. Others say college football players should get a percentage of the game revenue.
We are rapidly getting to the point where the connection between the players and colleges, in any meaningful educational sense, is evaporating. Players will be brought in, paid to represent the school and allowed to get a degree in intercollegiate athletics or something just as worthless.
How did this happen? It all started with the fiction that college athletes weren’t being paid. Of course they were being paid. Room, board and tuition is easily worth between $ 150,000 and $ 200,000 at a school like Florida or Florida State. The system probably needed some tweaking but it must be remembered that students, even football players, are supposed to be working towards a degree which would serve them all their lives.
That has value. Just playing football guarantees them nothing long term, even though a recent survey showed that over 50% of college players believe they will go on to play professionally when the fact is that less than 2% do. But all that has been lost in the rush to win games.
The rationale for changing the system was that players were being exploited, even though nobody makes you play college sports and those who chose to do so knew what they were getting into. For many now, the short term future is bright, but at a tremendous cost. College football, as we knew it and as it was intended to be is, or soon will be, gone.