Here are instructions on how coaches can discuss NIL motivation for players without treating it as taboo

Here are instructions on how coaches can discuss NIL motivation for players without treating it as taboo

One day, we will live in a world where coaches can comfortably talk about NIL.

Like, without it all sounding like an intense accusation or denial. Instead of coaches treating this as if they’re on trial, they’ll eventually talk about NIL in the hiring process just as much as they talk about how much money their players made in the NFL.

Jimbo runner Fisher-Nick Saban was many things. It was great theater, it was personal and it was accusatory. It was also a reminder that we are still not in a place in the age of NIL where everyone is on the same page. Saban said that A&M “bought” the entire recruiting class – which was the highest-rated group in 247sports history – that pushed Fisher to the edge. That’s why the A&M coach hit back at Saban by calling him a narcissist and saying his comments were “vile.”

Saban responded by saying he had never accused A&M of cheating while Fisher doubled down by going to a San Antonio TV station and declaring it “a lie” about the rumored tens of millions of dollars A&M spent in the 2022 recruitment chapter.

These coaches seem to have been trained for decades in how to talk about hiring. However, what they are not trained in is how to actually talk about the role of the NIL in recruitment in a reasonable way. It is still taboo. If it’s not illegal, then calling someone because of it doesn’t seem right. On the other hand, if that’s not illegal, some wholesale denial doesn’t sound right either.

So while these random blasts in May certainly help pass the time during these normally lean months of the college football calendar, it looks like we can get to a place where we can have a common understanding of this issue.

Let’s give the coaches guidance on how to discuss the NIL in an appropriate manner that does not lead to a third world war:

Calling out specific programs for using NIL in recruitment doesn’t really help your case

See “Saban, Nick”.

Saban admitted that he regretted singles out A&M and Jackson State because the defense was easy. I mean, even if Saban had literally pulled off a specific contract saying “that’s what Travis Hunter was given to him to attend Jackson State”, what would he have really done? It’s not as if Saban is whistling about illegal activity.

And even if she was trying to do something like that, remember when Lynne Kevin infamously said Urban Meyer illegally contacted the Richardson Knocks while visiting Tennessee? It was Kevin who ended up with an egg on his face, not only because he appeared to be unsafe, but also because Meyer did not commit an NCAA violation.

It was Kevin who actually fired Fisher for the first time in February with this comment:

This does not mean being right or wrong. The issue is twofold. For starters, if Kiffin didn’t have proof of it, he set Fisher up for a very easy rejection (I’ll get to how to handle it in a bit). The other problem is that Kiffin sends the bat signal to the realm of “Hey, they got more money than we have.” No coach will say, “This program in our department has better facilities than ours.” This should be handled the same way.

It was Kevin himself who said kids will make their college decisions based on NIL, so why pay more attention to the differences between an Ole Miss and an A&M?

Kiffin can still make his point without adding this part about A&M. He can let us infer the specific programs he’s talking about. That’s really what Saban and Kiffin were trying to do. Fischer himself wants regulation, too. The three had very different methodologies for communicating this.

Denying that NIL played any role in recruitment is also ridiculous

See “Fisher, Jimbo”.

Here is the situation that could arise at the National Signature Day press conference:

Reporter: To what extent do you think the NIL influenced your excellent leadership recruit to sign with your program?

Coach: You have to ask him. What I do know is that we have taken a strict approach to making sure our men make the right decisions with NIL once they get here. We equip them with all the necessary resources to help themselves while making sure that this does not detract from their development as players. We want to excel at that. We know we need to continue to excel at this in order to make sure we give our players the best college experience possible during their time on campus.

We make sure that every player we sign understands what we expect of them, and if they take care of those things, we’ll make sure we can give them those opportunities to make money off their looks. I hope they have looked at what we have done through NIL so far and that has been a positive for us in the recruitment process. We want to be the elite in everything we do, and that includes nothing.

Easy enough, right?

Well, let’s try another method:

Reporter: Another coach said your class got $30 million to sign at A&M.

Coach: Is there a question there?

Reporter: Is what he said true?

Coach: What does it matter if we do that or not?

Reporter: Well, I think it gets into the gray area about what pays to play and what’s nothing.

Coach: We don’t break any rules with what we do. Is our staff working very hard to sign players? definitely. Have we made sure our young people get plenty of NIL opportunities once they hit campus? surely. Hiring doesn’t mean you’re sitting in an art auction and bidding on lots. Sure, it’s a different scene now and we’re making NIL a part of our recruitment plan. The kids want to hear about it and I don’t blame them. But in the same way that we sell some recruits after one visit to Kyle Field, I’m sure we have some recruits who’ve heard about the chances of us not having items, and they cut the deal for them.

None of this sounds overly defensive. He addresses the zero elephant in the room and admits that he is part of the hiring process. But this does not necessarily turn it into a back-and-forth questioning one’s ability to recruit the old-fashioned way.

It is also not the coach’s job to determine exactly how many NIL opportunities were created or to determine the pay for playing versus not actually having NIL. An answer like that is a subtle case of elasticity without external denial because let’s also not forget that there are worse narratives about a program than it’s racing with top recruits.

There’s a reason Saban is telling the world that Bryce Young earned $1 million in NIL earnings before he started a game in Alabama.

Let’s do this last scenario:

Reporter: Coach, do you think going back to the middle for another year in school was a byproduct of the NIL?

Coach: The heck sure can’t hurt. And if it’s a deal breaker, that’s a win for us.

There is nothing wrong with that. Absolutely.

It’s okay to talk about groups too

I thought it odd that Fisher said he knew everything his staff did was above the board, but he doesn’t know how to handle the group. To be fair, it’s not the coach’s job to decide who gets what through the team team. I got it. But Fisher basically talked about the A&M collective, which he called “The Box,” as if it was something completely outside his purview.

Meanwhile, Saban said On multiple occasions That nothing was not the problem, and that groups were the root of the problem. Specifically, the fact that boosters are allowed to transfer money to players through a group.

It’s interesting that Alabama didn’t have a collegiate for most of the first year of NIL, but it did have one recently. Saban said the Alabama players got an equal share of the money. Unlike Fisher, he had details about equal distribution. He also somewhat downplayed its importance by saying that his “players made more money than anyone else” without collegiality:

Note that when USC won the Jordan Addison lottery, they also did not do so en masse. Then again, Pete had no set when Addison hit the gate.

Why am I putting this up? Because I think groups are important, but they’re not everything. The NCAA somehow didn’t expect groups to participate, which is why there aren’t necessarily rules in place, other than specifying that teams must abide by any “market value”.

There is nothing stopping a coach from bragging about how much money a team’s team brings. They are not technically managed by the university. “Our players made $3 million for themselves by doing it on the spot,” Saban said, and they didn’t buy a single player.

I would like to hear a coach say “Our group was actually responsible for paying our guys $5 million. I am grateful that our local business owners made the decision and helped improve us by benefiting our athletes in the community.”

Wise thinking? Probably. But the groups are not pragmatic. No one has ever said that having an outside organization facilitating None deals is a crime or a violation of the NCAA.

In case of doubt? Be a supporter of the NIL deal and accept that this isn’t amateur athletics anymore

it’s not like that. Coaches don’t have to say “players get paid forever”. This is kind of implicit.

Let’s play a little scenario here again:

Reporter: Do you think NIL is good for the future of sports?

Coach: If we do this right, NIL can be an asset. Times have changed. We need to change with them. We as coaches need to accept that if we have different financial benefits from this sport than were available 20 years ago, it will be for the players. Developing our platform is a good thing, which is why I’m all for gamers who get what they can.

Is this current system perfect? No, but then again, what is the perfect all-new system after just one year? I think we can continue to tweak things to make sure we’re doing things for the sake of the future of the sport. We can be pro-zero and pro-regulatory at the same time. Shot, even Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban agreed.

All I know is that we are embracing this new chapter of college athletics and ready for whatever lies ahead.

Did you get a touch of drama with that last line? likely. But that’s what I want my coach to say. You can raise concerns about legislation right away. Follow-up is likely to occur in this setting as well.

Reporter: What can you modify with NIL?

Coach: Like I said, we can be pro-NIL and pro-regulatory at the same time. We like to work within specific parameters to see what we can and can’t do. Despite what you may sometimes see on a Saturday afternoon, we as coaches admit that we cannot play a football match without officials. We also can’t get to the same page with NIL unless we have a specific set of rules being enforced. We need to figure out the best way to achieve this.

An answer like that doesn’t mean the coach has all the answers, but it does at least address the current problem. That’s really all that has to be said.

To be fair, we’ve seen a handful of coaches who have tackled this issue pretty well. Saban has mostly handled it well. He made an admitted error by pointing out specific programs at the end of a 7-minute answer. He is not alone.

Now, though, Saban and his fellow trainers can refer to this guideline for how to discuss the lack of constructive risk in a constructive and responsible manner that does not lead to the outbreak of World War III.

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