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NIL model is not sustainable for Tennessee Vols football

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In theory, I do not oppose the transfer portal, which now allows college student-athletes to change schools as often as they want without penalty.

In theory, I do not oppose Name Image and Likeness, which allows student-athletes to profit off their image while in college.

But when the two go hand in hand without guardrails, I think it’s a disaster.

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Quarterback J.T. Daniels shouldn’t be allowed to play at four different schools in five years.

Freshmen who redshirt shouldn’t be allowed to make $2 million a year while teammates are grinding each week on the gridiron.

This whole system is a mess – and a predictable mess.

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If you didn’t see this coming, you were blinded by your desire to empower college athletes.

If you didn’t see this coming, you didn’t look at the big picture.

Many predicted that the transfer portal would lead to mass exoduses from colleges. They were right.

Many predicted that NIL would cause dissension in locker rooms. They were right.

Many predicted that athletes – even at major schools – would sell their talents to the highest bidder, showing zero loyalty to their teammates, coaches or school. They were right.

Former Alabama coach Nick Saban correctly predicted this would be akin to free agency in the NFL. But it’s worse. College athletes have more freedom to change schools than NFL players to do change teams.

Most NFL players have multiyear binding contracts and you can’t randomly switch from one team to another multiple times.

College athletes can come and go as they please, with no repercussion. And they can do it multiple times.

The system has generated, to some extent, quitters.

Don’t like your playing time, quit and enter the portal.

Don’t like the NIL money you make, quit and enter the portal.

Don’t like hard coaching, quit and enter the portal.

That isn’t the case with all that enter the portal. Some are run off – i.e. Deion Sanders at Colorado. Some have a legitimate reason for leaving – like playing behind a star or a coaching change.

But that is not the majority.

I am also bothered by the more than 1,000 football players that entered the portal in 2022 that didn’t find another school and lost their scholarship.

I am bothered by the unsuspecting athlete who signs an NIL deal, only to learn that he is bound to that company or organization for many years AFTER turning pro.

Is there a solution to this madness?

Probably not.

But here are a couple of suggestions that might help.

A Cap

A cap of $25 million is put on each FBS school for NIL money.  The NFL and NBA have a salary cap. Why not the NCAA? The NCAA is a voluntary organization and a salary cap per team should hold up in court.

Can you get 130 FBS schools to agree on the salary cap amount? Maybe not. But it’s better than the Wild, Wild West bidding wars we have out there now.

FCS schools could have a $5-10 million salary cap. That would at least give some FCS teams a chance to keep key players from bolting to the FBS.

Division I basketball teams could also have a $10 million salary cap.

Transparency

Disclose the NIL deals for each athlete. The private schools would balk at this, but there are only a handful of private schools that are relevant at this level.

Public school coaches’ salaries are public. Why not athletes at public schools?

This would force schools to be more equitable in their distribution of NIL money to athletes rather than have clandestine deals.

And perhaps it would curb some of the dissension in the locker room when starters discover backups are making more money.

Limit Transfers

Limit the number of undergraduate transfers to one and graduate transfers to one. That way, an athlete could play at a maximum of three schools. This would prevent a J.T. Daniels from playing at USC, Georgia, West Virginia and Rice.

2-year Commitment

Players could not transfer until playing two seasons at a school unless there is a head-coaching change.

Too often, when the going gets tough, players quit – especially after one year or one semester.

The current rules encourage quitting because it’s too easy to transfer without penalty.

By not allowing transfers after one semester, this could entice players to stick it out and not throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity.

Let’s face it: The current system is not sustainable.

And if guardrails aren’t put in place soon, college athletics will implode within the next five years.

And that will be detrimental to fans, athletes and coaches.

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