Name, Image, Likeness Contracts Create Open Bidding Wars For College Prospects

Jay Maxson | May 19, 2022
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College sports already had their under-the-table money scandals, and then along came NIL (name, image, likeness payoffs for college athletes). Prior to a recent college basketball season, a nationwide sting nailed several university basketball programs for illegally paying big money to recruits. Now universities are openly offering substantial NIL contracts to prospects. On top of scholarships offers. You can officially now wave good-bye to amateurism at the major college level. 

Here’s a headline that exemplifies college sports in 2022: “Emory Jones to sign ($75,000) NIL deal upon Arizona State commitment.” That’s chump change, though. Jackson State coach “Neon” Deion Sanders has been accused of snagging a heavily recruited player – Travis Hunter -- with a $1 million NIL package, though the coach and player denied this. Texas A&M has the No. 1-ranked football recruiting class this year, and rival Alabama Coach Nick Saban (seen at right in photo) accused the Aggies of buying every one of those players.  

NIL also adds the element of free agency to college sports, and prep prospects are looking for schools that offer them the highest NIL deal. Saban said he doesn’t totally oppose NIL, but he takes exception to what he sees as universities exploiting it. He said this week that college athletics should not be a matter of students choosing the highest bidder for their talent. College selections should be about making a decision based on where young people have “the best chance to develop as a person, as a student and as a player.” 

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The current sea change threatens the tradition of college sports, Saban said. "The thing that I fear is at some point in time, they’re just going to say, ‘We’re going to have to pay players. If we start paying players, we’re going to have to eliminate sports. This is all bad for college sports.” 
The Alabama coach said, “We didn’t buy one player, alright? But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future, because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.” 

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher called Saban a despicable narcissist who has previously bought players. "We built him up to be this czar of football. Go dig into his past," Fisher said. “You can call me anything you want to call me. You can’t call me a cheat. I don’t cheat and I don’t lie." 

Sanders also called Saban a liar, As a coach at a historically black university, he said: "We as a people don’t have to pay our people to play with our people.” 

On one hand, the emergence of NIL appears to be a death knell for amateurism. But on the other hand, it may be the vehicle that fully exposes the hypocrisy and big money recruiting side of college sports.  

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