Football is under assault by the political left.
But politics aren’t the only problem to be concerned about.
Now a legendary football coach said the sport is being ruined by one thing.
College football head coach Nick Saban has won six national championships with the Alabama Crimson Tide (and a seventh title with the LSU Tigers), yet he’s worried about the long-term health of the sport.
Saban is concerned about the rise of NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals that allow amateur athletes to get paid for their sport.
In the past, players who were two-sport stars could, for example, sign a professional baseball contract and maintain their amateur eligibility status in football.
Now players can monetize their football prowess, but Saban believes it will undermine the sport.
Saban argued, “The concept of name, image and likeness was for players to be able to use their name, image and likeness to create opportunities for themselves. That’s what it was. So last year on our team, our guys probably made as much or more than anybody in the country…But that creates a situation where you can basically buy players. You can do it in recruiting. I mean, if that’s what we want college football to be, I don’t know. And you can also get players to get in the transfer portal to see if they can get more some place else than they can get at your place.”
The transfer portal allows players to put their name in a database, and other programs can basically go shopping for positions of need.
The transfer rules have also been relaxed, so a freshman who doesn’t get immediate playing time can jump ship to another program, and with NIL deals on the table, he can go to the highest bidder.
Saban is likely correct that the new rules have created perverse incentives.
For example, Texas quarterback phenom Quinn Ewers reportedly got a seven-figure NIL deal to attend Ohio State*, then he got another deal to transfer back to his home state and play for the Texas Longhorns.
That story is not unique.
More than ever, college football has turned into an arms race and the deals are quickly becoming outrageous.
However, proponents of the new NIL deals would argue that they’re leveling the playing fields and allowing players to get paid.
They would also argue that players have been getting paid under the table for decades; Alabama and other top-tier programs have been accused of lavishing players with cash and cars.
Addressing the competitive balance angle, thus far, the top schools have vacuumed in even more top talent.
If a smaller school does bring in and develop a star player, he can simply transfer to one of the bigger schools that has an unexpected hole on the roster.
And what’s good for the players financially might end up being bad for the sport overall.
If Saban and other critics of the new system are right, it will become painfully obvious in the next few years.