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Billy Napier likens transfer portal and NIL to NFL free agency

Nick de la Torre05/19/22
Article written by:On3 imageNick de la Torre
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James Gilbert via Getty Images.

FORT LAUDERDALE — While college athletics grew into a multi-billion dollar business the athletes that were largely responsible for creating that revenue were told to be happy with their scholarships. Last year legislation was passed to allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness. Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier is a proponent of that. However, what we’ve seen in the last year is not necessarily what was intended.

Now, Napier is seeing firsthand how NIL is shaping college athletics.

“I think that it’s a little bit like NFL free agency to some degree except when a team maybe overpays, there’s no cap penalty going forward,” Napier told Gators Online Tuesday before a speaking engagement. “It’s been a unique challenge, one that probably these decisions were made and some of these things weren’t anticipated.”

Napier has called it free agency without a salary cap before. It’s kind of like playing a game but there aren’t universal rules to the game. If there are some semblance of rules, they aren’t being enforced.

The issue is the NCAA went kicking and screaming fighting tooth and nail to avoid having NIL become a reality. When the United State Congress not only wouldn’t back them on that claim but then called into question the NCAA’s antitrust exemptions, the NCAA threw its hands up and allowed the individual states to decide what NIL legislation would rule their state. That left an uneven playing field.

In a world where college football coaches get paid millions of dollars to win football games, many will find ways to get an advantage. In a world where boosters have been illegally paying recruits and players for decades, how could this not have been foreseen?

Napier calls for more guidance

The NCAA recently came out and said they would begin to more rigorously look into potential cheating when it comes to NIL and payments. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger wrote college leaders want the NCAA to start investigating recruiting violations. Not just future problems, but some in the past, as well.

Napier is all for his players being afforded the opportunity to profit from their name, image, and likeness. He, like many other coaches, just wants to know what the rules are and to have those rules enforced.

“Right now, we need some leadership, we need some parameters, we need some guidelines. There’s no market. There’s no comps. I think that’s probably the challenge a little bit. There’s a lot of gray area in terms of what you can do and what you can’t do. I think a lot of this is to-be-determined,” Napier said. “I think every athletic department in the entire country is in an adjustment mode. It is literally an open canvas. I think you’ve seen different approaches. We’re fortunate that I think this is going to be a really big strength for us. NIL for our players and our team, I think there are going to be a lot of positives as a result of NIL.”

Nick Saban calls out Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M

Speaking at an event celebrating the 50-day countdown to the World Games in Birmingham, Saban went on a rant about NIL and how it’s being used and not policed.

“I know the consequence is going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players,” Saban said via AL.com. (Full video here) “You read about it, you know who they are. We were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image, and likeness.

“We didn’t buy one player. Aight? 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.”

Whether that is true or not is up for debate. It wasn’t the first time Saban had gone after Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M. Fisher responded in a heated exchange on February 2.

“To have coaches, in our league and across this league to say it…Clown acts, “Irresponsible as hell… And the guys griping about NIL, griping about transfer portal are using it the most and bragging about it the most. That’s the ironic part,” Fisher continued. “It’s funny when Nick Saban said his quarterback got an $800,000 deal, it was wonderful,” Fisher said. “Now it ain’t wonderful no more, huh? We ain’t got that. Ours are on record what comes up.”

It certainly will be an interesting room in Destin, Florida when the SEC spring meetings are held in two weeks.