Saturday, January 13, 2024

Navigating the Rapids in Current College Football Trends

One of the wildest 4 or 5 days I have ever seen as the current in the 'River of Ever Change' in football surges into whitewater and waterfalls! My goodness!

Saban retirement, Belichick out, Pete Carroll, Debour in at Bama, Cadillac Williams out at Auburn…. Portal declarations, decommits, 10 million dollar contracts, and sudden change…

The change illuminates a harbinger of danger and demands daring protocols, policies, and principle promotion for future survival.

I get concerned that a lot of decision makers in these times are too hinged to the past and have little energy, creativity, or quickness to move, dodge, and corral these rapids… but there is a tremendous opportunity to dam the river and harness the energy for future success as well.

3 Moods

I have often said that one must fight to keep a mood for the moment and many of these initial steps have more to do with gut instincts than sequential steps that get lost in committee. There are too many nuances and unintended results for one to feel safe in these calls of balls and strikes.

Mood #1: Principle based applications- In this day of rapid change and shoot outs a person has to be grounded in principles and virtue. It has to be a deep, wisdom laden, and disciplined recognition that power, money, and fame cannot bear the burden of life. This is what sport used to teach much better than all others: team concepts (we accomplish more together than alone, it is not good for man to be alone), sacrifice (we suffer together so we can share victory together), the Golden rule (treat others the way we would want to be treated), all humans have dignity as image bearers of the creator, delayed gratification, honesty.

Now, all of this is still undefeated- I promise you, the winners over time have a high understanding of who they are and what they believe that aligns with truth.

If the worldview is right, the values are right (more than lip service) and there is intentional effort for the greater good of all then the journey will end at a worthy destination.

Mood #2: Recognition and honor of the past but without nostalgia or unrealistic longing for the ‘good ole days’ that never existed in the first place.- this is a tough one. If we erase history, we will eventually cut our own throats. We must have a nod to the past and hope we receive care for us when we walk out to the pasture of forgotten though epic, heroic battles of yesterday. When we honor people and good deeds in the past, we model appropriate treatment of human beings. We also must honestly learn from the errors without throwing stones due to our imperfections. There is a difference in longing for the past and moving forward to the future while honoring the past. One is freeing and the other is a trap.

Mood #3: Our ministry must always be to build men more than millionaires. Materialism is an empty idol. The lasting coaches, the admired coaches, the wise administrators understand that this fast paced world of information, disinformation, and misinformation requires them to build leaders who desire to be entrepreneurs, lawmakers, and leaders; people who value societal revival more than personal portfolios. I'm worried that the current landscape of college football is too intertwined in glamorizing billfold, boardroom, and bedroom prowess and it over run by too many bottom feeders sleazing their way into the fray. We must somehow use the experience of being an athlete to create a thirst for men to 'not die rich' but 'die trying' to leave this world or even just their home a better place.


This is a hasty post, but not one without thought. 

When the Supreme Court handed down the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) Verdict (June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the NCAA in NCAA v. Alston where the court found that the NCAA's restrictions on name, image, and likeness (NIL) activity violate antitrust laws and also stated that the NCAA cannot restrict education-related compensation benefits for student-athletes) it opened a proverbial Pandora’s box with no boundaries.

What is left in the wake of this foul dust is a frontier that needs a good Sheriff. Elvis has left the building and he is not coming back; we must find a way to glean what is good and protect the sport from the evil lurking in the shadows. Here are my recommendations.

1. Unified Federal Laws- take the best of the state laws and codify rational boundaries.

2. No Caps on Collectives, but Payments Made in Consistent Amounts

3. Percentages Paid to Other Athletes of Non-Revenue Sports

4. Certification of “Handlers’

5. Education for Athletes in how to protect and grow the worth of their NIL

6. Insurance Collective for On-Field or In-Training Injuries

7. Utilization of Trusts and Mandatory Financial Advisors

8. Better calendars for coaches. Take better care of assistant coaches.

9. Stiffer penalties for violations.

10. Incentivize stability and completion of a season

11. NIL limits on HS athletes or portal players to discourage use of the value for recruiting

12. Re-institute football dorms or isolated living communities.

I don’t have space or time to write about these in detail but I can make a few example comments.

For point #2, I think the eventual collectives should not be restricted as far as value is concerned but I do think there could be a common pay scale that would be similar to how players are evaluated and paid in the NFL. Some positions are ‘valued’ higher than others. The QB room would in this situation would have a range or scale different than the long snapper.

For point #3- Require schools to take 15% of their yearly NIL collective for football and men’s  basketball and funnel it to all other university athletes. 

For point #4- Allow Athletes to have only 1 ‘handler’ at a time (parent, uncle, mentor) and certify these representatives. Don’t allow these people to be professional agents and scrutinize them through audits and disclosure forms.

For point #5- Having a valuable NIL can help athletes make better decisions off the field.

For point #6- Buy a collective policy to make a fair compensation to any athlete who gets injured in a bowl game or playoff game, or who stays to finish their education and delay testing the NFL market.

For point #8- we are killing our coaches. We have to find a way to give them more time at home and with families.

For point #11. All HS athletes and portal players are ‘unproven’ and it is no crime to delay the growth of NIL opportunities until that is shown in reality and not in theory. My suggestion is to require all “non-team” money be capped universally and put in trusts.

For point #12- NIL athletes these days are not normal students, these are hybrid ‘employees’. I think it should be allowed and even encouraged to separate these players and allow coaches more time to mentor and more time to build community within teams.

BTW- this is coming to HS athletes as well. How can we use it for good and mitigate the harms? The time for action is now.

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