Stop bemoaning the influence of money in college athletics, how it’s ruining college football, college basketball, whatever your other favorite college sport is, like money in college athletics is something new, because it’s not.
Without money, football, basketball, every other sport, is something we play with our friends in the backyard or in a park or YMCA gym.
Money is what makes the world go ‘round, as they say.
The issue with college athletics now isn’t that the student-athletes can finally have some money in their pockets.
It’s that there still aren’t rules in place protecting them from the whims of coaches and the pressures of having people around them trying to steer them through an unregulated marketplace.
First, to the whims of coaches. Fans assume that when a kid commits to a school that the scholarship they’re granted is for four years, but it’s not – for most, it’s a one-year grant-in-aid, renewed when the coach signs off.
For all the handwringing over Jordan Addison leaving Pitt for USC, for Isaiah Wong holding up Miami for more NIL money, there are scores of student-athletes quietly cut loose by coaches for myriad reasons, with no corresponding outrage from fans.
Here’s one solution: more schools need to offer multi-year grants-in-aid, in addition to the standard one-year deal.
The NCAA lifted its ban on multi-year scholarships in 2012, and many Power 5 football programs use them as a recruiting tool, but they’re not used much outside of Power 5 football.
They should be.
The advantage to student-athletes with the longer deals is obvious: security.
It’s patently unfair that kids in their teens or early 20s have to balance being full-time college students with the demands of training, travel and athletic competitions under the threat of having it all taken away from them in a few months if a coach decides they’re progressing enough, or as is often the case, a new coach decides that they don’t fit with their new system.
Giving kids the option to sign multi-year deals would take a lot of that pressure off, especially for prep recruits transitioning into the rigors of college from the academics standpoint, and into college athletics in terms of the increased demands for training and competition.
The benefit, then, to their coaches would be that the time that they and their staffs spend in the development of young athletes doesn’t end up getting realized by another program.
Another benefit, to coaches, would be that there’d be less influence from NIL in terms of, ahem, outside interests, using the lure of NIL to goad kids into jumping into the transfer portal.
And then to coaches at the non-Power 5 level, there’d be a new dynamic to recruiting that could equalize things between the big boys and everybody else.
Savvy non-Power 5 coaches might use multi-year grants-in-aid to attract kids on the fence about signing with a Power 5 that may only be willing to give them a one-year deal.
If we see that play out over time, the depth of the Power 5s would end up in the AACs and Sun Belts and Horizons, and if you think March is Madness now, whoa, boy.
Multi-year deals for the student-athletes would then make NIL what it should have been about all along – not so much a recruiting inducement, but a source of income.
Then the only question would come to dealing with what is now an unregulated marketplace. This one is both easy and difficult, the easy part being, Congress needs to be the one to act, with legislation putting in place one set of rules that covers all 50 states.
The hard part to this is, we can’t get Congress to agree on what day of the week it is without the threat of a filibuster.
But most of these people are also alums, and are usually more than happy to brag about the program in their district or state making a run at a conference or NCAA title.
The problems are what they are, but the solutions are there, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much in the way of getting them done.
So, fixed it, you’re welcome.
Now, we can go back to arguing about expanding the College Football Playoff, and other such important matters.
Story by Chris Graham