Cry about NIL as NCAA power brokers might, the confetti isn't going back in the cannon

·4-min read

The NCAA spent years turning a blind eye to hush-hush inducements to get high-profile high school athletes to particular schools, and for years it kicked the idea of athletes being paid for their own names, images and likenesses down the road.

And now that at long last NIL means "now it's legal" for college athletes to be compensated and the NCAA's shamateurism has finally gone away, league commissioners and coaches are crying foul.

Like the inept, behind-the-times organization it has been for decades.

Scroll to continue with content

The NCAA had its chance to try to regulate NIL. It likely would have been highly restrictive, featured more arcane rules, led to more ridiculous punishments and of course still kept athletes from earning all they could off their talent, but the chance was there.

The NCAA blew this. No one else.

And now people want to try to put the confetti back in the cannon, just as scores of kids are getting to reap the financial rewards they've long been due.

Has it been surprising to see some of the amounts of money athletes are getting? To be honest, yes. Many of the fans crying that things are "out of control" because 18-year-olds are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars have been riding the same racially tinged bus for decades — "They're given a scholarship, they should just be grateful!"

But again, the NCAA had years to get in front of this situation before giving it the green light, and let's not be dumb. Even if the group had set limits on the money kids could get, boosters would have found ways around it, just as they have for years.

Some of the people grumbling loudest about the situation aren't surprising, but are definitely people who have no place to talk and are telling on themselves.

Alabama coach Nick Saban and Georgia coach Kirby Smart are among those calling for more regulation — of players, to be clear. Far as we can tell, neither has ever called for regulation on coaching salaries or restriction of player movement, or groused about how "out of control" it is that head coaches can get boosters to pay off their mortgages or get bonuses for their players' grade-point averages and graduation rates.

You know, getting rich off other people's work. Like how it's always been for NCAA coaches and the athletes they purport to develop into men and women.

Alabama's Nick Saban and Georgia's Kirby Smart are two coaches who have publicly called for NIL regulation in college football. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Alabama's Nick Saban and Georgia's Kirby Smart are two coaches who have publicly called for NIL regulation in college football. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Given the brutal capitalistic nature of this country, in which many work for little pay while the few reap the rewards of the worker class, maybe student-athletes are getting the right lessons after all.

We digress.

It's interesting that football coaches like Saban and Smart would be so adamant that something just has to change. And by "interesting," we mean it reeks of sour grapes. The playing field in FBS has never truly been level, but now some schools who haven't been heavy hitters in recent years, like Miami or Texas and even HBCUs, can compete with Alabama and Georgia for the top players, and they don't like it.

There were always ever-plusher locker rooms and private barber shops and top-of-the-line weight rooms boosters funded to entice kids to play for free, while the coaches got more and more money and could leave any time for bigger and bigger paychecks. There were always secret cash payments for top recruits, well-paying jobs that didn't really require working.

And it was all well and good until there was actual, on-the-table money involved.

For all this cackling about the NCAA enforcing rules that are already in place to try to rein everything in, when was the last time it enforced rules, especially against big-name coaches? We're not old, but we're old enough to remember last month, when NCAA chief Mark Emmert handed Kansas coach Bill Self the national championship trophy despite the fact the program is currently being investigated for five Level I violations. And that investigation has dragged on for years.

The NCAA had its chance to regulate NIL deals and inducements to play for certain programs. It plugged its ears, ignoring the ticking that was counting down to a day that was coming ever sooner. Now — boom — it has arrived, and it's too late.

They're going to try, but it's impossible to put the confetti back in the cannon.