Over the past week, receiver Jordan Addison has gone from Kenny Pickett’s favorite target to the face of outrage from the NIL transfer portal sweeping the nation (well, collegiate sports nation anyway).
That Addison situation can signal the end of an era that should be the end of another era. The rumor doing the rounds at the moment is that USC and new head coach Lincoln Riley spoke to Addison before he entered the transfer portal, a no-no, promising the recipient a big ol’ NIL deal if he crossed the land to play for the Trojans. Addison has since entered the portal but is yet to announce USC as his next target and was even spotted training with Alabama’s Bryce Young yesterday.
The nightmarish NIL rollout
NIL’s implementation ten months ago went completely unchecked, and it would be an exaggeration to say it will end in a fiery crash, but the ‘wild west’ (everyone’s new favorite term for the NIL transfer portal combo) is about to be pushed back and could leave many stalled boosters and confused players behind.
Because the NCAA wasn’t interested in putting up guardrails before the start of the NIL, they must now put up restrictions after the proverbial horse leaves the stable. So high and powerful and holier than you that it wants to act and clutches its pearls about abusing the system it has no one to blame but itself. When it comes to money and athletics why on earth thought it that everyone would only abide by a code of ethics that they had in their heads?
Although I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing Miami’s Isaiah Wong allegedly publicly asking for a “raise,” or promising high schoolers millions of dollars to play anywhere without ever proving themselves on a collegiate field, I also firmly believe that’s the case not fault of the athletes. The money is in front of them – why the hell wouldn’t they take it? And it’s not really the boosters’ fault either. There are no legal restrictions preventing them from sponsoring their favorite teams – so why wouldn’t they?
Both parties use the system to their greatest advantage within the system, and a rudderless and headless NCAA is not only in the shit without a paddle, it finds itself in whitewater rapids without a life jacket and can’t swim, trying to build a dam with it everything that swims by. It’s desperate and it’s a bad plan, but it made this bed. I mean, come on – how did the NCAA not see this booster collective trend coming? You’ve been dealing with these guys’ sneaky attempts at illegal recruiting for years. The chance to make it overboard is all they’ve been waiting for, with a 9-0 Supreme Court decision support of educational financial benefits behind it. In January, an aide told The Athletic, “The NCAA is more concerned than anything that they don’t want to limit players’ options as a result of the Supreme Court decision.”
This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to boosters. They’re practically begging the NCAA to take them to court over this – because they genuinely believe they’re going to win.
Where does the NCAA go from here?
So what happens now if the presidentless and rapidly shrinking NCAA is actually trying to pull itself together and introduce restrictions for two minutes? Have the kids who have already signed contracts with booster-sponsored collectives voided their contracts? Must the high school students who have been promised money to play at a particular school reconsider a much less financially fruitful commitment? The real question is whether the West has become too wild to intervene at this point. Going back and retrospectively installing guardrails in response to self-inflicted moral outrage is a classic NCAA move, but also a stupid one. It plans to claim that the boosters violate pre-NIL association rules and crack down on the pay-for-play system that is spreading CBS sports.
But we all know that NCAA enforcement is a joke. Trouble is – the collectively sponsored bribe isn’t great. It’s a poorly hidden pay to play system. I agree that kids shouldn’t be getting prepaid contracts from non-school-bound but school-bound collectives, and of course boosters probably shouldn’t be able to contact potential athletes with financial promises that aren’t filtered through coaches and schools. Sporting directors are rightly concerned, although NIL has the potential to be an excellent opportunity at its core.
So the NCAA will prosecute collectives under the existing booster rule, and they will hopefully seek Jordan Addison-type manipulations since the penalty for contact can be imposed on the adults in the situation – the boosters pay off the kids who Coaches speaking to an athlete in another program. It will no longer be up to the student-athletes, not the SCOTUS decision. At least that’s one good thing to come out of this mess.