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Ole Miss HC Lane Kiffin on NIL Deals Impacting CFB: ‘It’s Professional Sports’

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AP Photo/Wade Payne

Ole Miss head football coach LaneKiffin, who spent two years coaching the NFL’s OaklandRaiders, said the arrival of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals hasmade NCAA recruiting no different than pro leagues’ free agency.

Kiffin was asked about his NIL discussions with recruits Friday during an appearance on TheRich Eisen Show (5:10 mark of video).

“It’s professional sports,” hesaid. “It’s no different than an agent with a free agent saying, ‘OK, we have this from the Raiders, but we’ll come to you with theFalcons if you match it.'”

Kiffin is the latest high-profile coachto speak out about the direction of college sports in the NIL era,which began in June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the NCAA couldnot prevent certain payments to student-athletes.

Last week, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney toldESPN’s Chris Low he isn’t against the idea of allowing players toprofit off NIL opportunities during the college careers, but hefeared a “pay-for-play” system was starting to emerge:

“I am against anything thatdevalues education. That’s what I’m against. I am for anything thatincentivizes education. People will come after me because I’ve alwayssaid that I’m against the professionalism of college athletics, and Iam. Kids don’t know what they don’t know. That’s a slippery slope ifyou professionalize college athletics, and now you’ve got salariesand taxes and you can fire kids on the spot and they’ve got to payfor their tuition and they pay for their housing and everything else.Athletic directors would sign up for that in a heartbeat. They’d savemoney.”

Alabama’s Nick Saban followed suitWednesday, telling the Associated Press’ Ralph D. Russo what’s goingon isn’t a “sustainable model” for college sports:

“But that creates a situation whereyou can basically buy players. You can do it inrecruiting. 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 transferportal to see if they can get more someplace else than they can getat your place.”

Saban added Crimson Tide playersprobably ranked at or near the top of NIL earnings in 2021, and he’sconfident his program would continue to thrive regardless of therules, but he’s worried about the college football landscape as awhole.

Having any semblance of balance incollege sports has long relied on players making a choice betweenprestige and opportunity. Some recruits were willing to wait theirturn at Alabama, while others wanted a quicker path to playing time andwould go elsewhere.

If it becomes a simple case of thehighest financial offer wins, that trickle-down effect allowing otherprograms a shot at high-impact players is going to evaporate,especially for programs outside the top-tier group in the majorsports.

There isn’t an easy solution to theproblem, though.

It’s impossible to blame a student-athlete formaximizing their financial opportunities in college, and Russo notedmost of the NIL deals are made by companies with “no obligation topublicly disclose deals,” giving the NCAA no regulation power.

That’s why the NCAA has requested afederal law that regulates the market. NCAA President Mark Emmertasked for a “federal framework” during a congressional hearing inOctober, per Maria Carrasco of Inside Higher Ed:

“This framework needs to put collegeathletes first, on that we all agree. While it has been exciting forme and others to see college athletes explore new financial optionsin recent months, we’re also seeing many challenges and concerningtrends. These concerns, if not addressed soon, may be very difficultto reverse.”

So far Congress hasn’t acted on theissue, as coaches continue to sound the alarm.

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