Fifteen months into the Name, Image, and Similarity (NIL) era, Mike Leach has come to a realization like many in the industry: college sports have been professionalized. And it’s time, he says, for college athletes to become professionals. It’s time to draft the player. It’s time for maximum salaries, trades and player cuts.
Stuck in a purgatory between amateur and professional since the NIL was legalized in July 2021, college sports must take a full leap at last, Mississippi Football coach says.
“This shouldn’t be a pro masquerade. Are you a pro or aren’t you?” Leach says during an interview in his office earlier this week. “Instead of sitting here lecturing 17-year-olds to everyone that they are professionals, well, let them be professionals. He is one [amateur] or the other [professional]. Right now, we have this whole murky stratosphere of people rocking back and forth.”
Leach, 61, is no ordinary football coach. Far from the norm in his profession, he holds a law degree from Pepperdine. He has strong opinions, is a political junkie and enjoys a heated debate, when he’s not cracking a movie or riding a bike around Key West.
Football seems to him trivial, almost like a hobby in which he excels greatly. Preferably talking about current affairs and transition issues. And in the world of college sports, there is no greater national debate than the heated debate over compensation for athletes.
Naturally, he has some ideas on how to fix what stakeholders say is a chronic problem affecting their game. Leach believes that players should have a choice when entering college: Either you join (1) an amateur or you join as a professional (2).
“Responsibility comes with the professionals,” he says. “Yes, you could potentially make more money. But you are drafted and can be traded. That’s what the pros do. This college football group [of administrators]They were all shocked by that. Why was I shocked by that? Name a league of professionals who don’t do it that way.”
Like Leach, several prominent football coaches have begun speaking out about the current state of compensation for athletes in college athletics, and many are frustrated with what has developed into “legal cheating,” as Ole Miss coach. Described by Lynn Kevin in May.
on Saturday, Alabama hosts Texas A&M Four months after the trainers participated in the two programs In a general dispute on this exact subject. Nick Saban accused Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher of using the NIL to “buy every player on their team,” prompting an impromptu press conference in which Fisher suggested reporters look into Saban’s recruiting excesses.
It’s no secret: Donor-led groups and individual boosters They use NIL deals as a way to lure high school and college transfer players into their programs, paying millions in the industry’s latest arms race. The nation’s largest collegiate groups last year committed upwards of $4 million each into their school’s athletic programs, with soccer players taking six-figure salaries disguised as nil payments.
The school officials who initially resisted the mass movement hurriedly enter into battle, making a belated effort to muster their reinforcements for fear of being left behind. Other programmes, after struggling for months with a disorganized multi-cluster approach, are uniting their efforts, Like last week in Oxford.
The ultimate goal: build the best team your money can buy. But is there a better way? Promoters transfer funds, without restrictions, through third parties for distribution among a team of athletes who, unlike professional players, are not bound by contracts.
“Everything exploded, man.” Clemson Coach Dabo Sweeney said: Sports Illustrated in April. “It should be blown up. It is not sustainable where we are now.”
Leach’s scheme to rank two types of collegiate athletes – amateur and professional – is a similar concept used in professional golf tournaments, where amateurs can compete while being unable to win cash prizes.
Under Leach’s plan, amateurs follow similar rules that currently apply to college athletes. They are unpaid and can transfer freely. However, hobbyists will receive a $100,000 bonus once they graduate from the school they originally signed with. If you convert, says Leach, you will give up the right to earn the bonus.
Those who choose to be professional will receive a stipend from the school, sign a binding contract, and can be traded in and laid off from the team. They still have to go to school. School salary packages are organized similar to the NFL, where perks are limited in their spending.
“it’s not [where] The biggest and richest school pays them the most money,” says Leach. “It ruins the game. The NFL has a salary cap.”
In Leach’s plan, professionals can’t choose where to go to college because they’re part of a draft that could include all 130 FBS programs — or perhaps a subsection of programs that generate enough resources to pay athletes.
In a separate interview earlier this year about the powers of college football separating themselves, Sweeney said, “In the end, there will be 40 to 50 teams, commissioned, and here are the rules. It can’t happen soon enough for me. No. You can play basketball or soccer or anything like soccer. It’s not the same. You have this, “Let’s make everything the way it is!” We’re over that, 10 years later.”
In this murky climate of college sports, high-ranking officials have spent months exploring solutions to the issue of athlete compensation. The NCAA’s Transformation Committee discussed the matter extensively, and held meetings involving some of the country’s leading labor attorneys. With each suggestion, there are roadblocks and obstacles that prevent it from happening, they say. Any direct salary or revenue-sharing model would push athletes into becoming employees, something many college sports leaders oppose. The ninth address is also disconnected. Payments should be evenly distributed across sports – male and female.
Without solutions, college officials have appealed to Congress for help, something Leach says is wishful thinking. The latest is a A possible bill from former college coach Tommy Tuberville, Republican Senator from Alabama. No real action is expected on Capitol Hill until next year, after the completion of the midterm elections.
“They can’t even solve their own problems,” Leach says of Congress. “They don’t know the first thing about football and we will bow to a group of people who don’t know what to do? What is the time frame? I don’t think they accomplished it, but if they did, we would all die.”
Leitch’s plan has its share of loopholes, says Mitt Winter, a Kansas City-based sports attorney who has handled cases involving the NCAA. Professional college players will be employees of their university or conference. In such a hybrid model, half of the team (the amateur) would operate under NCAA rules that limit compensation—a potential antitrust problem—while the other half (the professional) would be subject to state employment laws as well as a collective bargaining agreement.
“In practice, it would be very difficult to manage a team,” Winter says. “The coaches talk about how messy roster management is now. Well, that sounds more chaotic to me.”
The debate about the hiring of athletes has gained momentum over the past several years as revenue growth in the college sports industry continues to expand in various ways, mostly due to men’s basketball and soccer. For example, in the most recent revenue windfall, a file Big Ten made a TV deal to earn $1.1 billion annually, and the leaders have just agreed to expand into the college football playoffs that could bring in $2 billion annually.
Many within college sports believe that employment status is coming for athletes at some point. There are at least four ways that athletes can ultimately be considered employees, Starting with complaints filed With both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.
In Pennsylvania, a court case, Johnson vs. NCAA, makes its way through the system and will make athletes employees. The fourth avenue to sports employment status is Congress. Several bills could pave a legal path for schools to provide collective bargaining rights to athletes and even revenue sharing provisions. This topic is not new, although coaches are talking more than ever.
Andy Schwartz, a California sports economist, thinks college sports leaders should go along with it. “Just admit that this is a market for talent and stop pretending it isn’t, and then organize it, not through collusive ‘protective barriers’ but through contracts and negotiating frameworks,” he told SI. this summer.
Is college football heading towards a professional model? Leach isn’t the only one who thinks it’s the only way out.
“The scene is shaky right now,” says Cincinnati coach Luke Fekl. “We’re at a crossroads which direction we’re going. You can’t keep getting sucked into that road. You really have to take the left turn and put a chassis behind it and keep a little bit of what we’ve known about college athletics. Or football and basketball going the other way for a semi-Pro.”
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