N.I.L. Tweaks – Matt Ravis

Depending on who you ask, college football might be dying. It might already be dead. It might be just fine. I think it is simply changing alongside society.

But even I have to admit that there are issues. The sport, in no part helped by the inept leadership of the NCAA, is in a critical stage.

Amateurism is becoming obsolete (the Supreme Court let us know as much). The transfer portal has led to uncontrolled free agency, and, in tandem with the NIL market, means there is player movement that can not be good for the on-field product.

I hold a more optimistic view of future college football than the doomsayers, but college football has lacked foresight and planning at its leadership level for years now.

Below are three ideas which I think can improve the sport. I believe these are all common-sense fixes that, if cooler heads prevail, will keep the sport  from being derailed.

There are too many agendas and too much money at play to satisfy all. But I believe it can become a more equitable place for players, fans, coaches, and administrators.

Fix the leadership gap

There exists a leadership gap in college football, and it’s the single most important issue facing the sport.

Plain and simple, the NCAA has failed college football. It didn’t prepare adequately for NIL. And they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, they have university presidents and other powerful people asking them to reign in what is happening in the market currently. On the other hand, they’re terrified of getting bogged down with expensive lawsuits if they try to restrict the earnings of college athletes.

So let’s burn it down. Easier said than done, since there is less-than-zero trust between the major conferences, who more than likely would need to step in to fill the void left by the NCAA.

This leadership “council” would need to be meaningfully different from the NCAA, otherwise what is the point? They would need to have tools to punish blatant cheating and the resources to investigate below board happenings.

Eventually, we will live in a (functionally) NCAA-less world. How quick will that come? What will it look like? It’s impossible to say, but the quicker the conferences set their differences aside, the better it will be for the sport.

Leave NIL largely the same

Crazy, right? As I mentioned before, any efforts to reign in the market for college players will likely result in lots of time in courtrooms. The toothpaste will not go easily back in the tube.

The real issue, at least to me, is that there are coaches out there (perhaps Lincoln Riley, among others) who are willingly inducing players to enter the transfer portal with offers of potential earnings. This is where it goes beyond a free market and becomes a black market of sorts.

This is why new leadership is so important: everybody knows the NCAA moves at a glacial pace when it comes to enforcement. Give the leadership teeth to enforce tampering rules and this will be far less of an issue.

Institute transfer windows

In addition to enforcing tampering, I have another suggestion for the portal.

Much like in the world of professional soccer, my plan would be to have two transfer windows — one or two weeks after spring ball and another week or two  in the summer. This cuts down on the unfettered free agency we have right now.

You don’t need to choose a new school in that time period, but you do need to enter your name so the team can plan accordingly.

This seems likely to happen, as it sounds like there are many coaches behind this rule. It does restrict the freedom to transfer somewhat, but still allows the players flexibility in deciding what’s best for their athletic future.

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