“I Think It’s Bad, It’s Out Of Control” | National Championship Coaches Bill Self, Nick Saban Speak On Potential Dangers Of NIL Deals

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Kansas head coach Bill Self, fresh off winning the 2022 college basketball national championship, recently gave his opinions on a host of topics including NIL deals and the “hot as fish grease” transfer portal.

While Self is a believer in student-athletes being able to move as coaches do it all the time, he’s also worried about those same student-athletes bolting from the university the minute a bigger NIL deal can be obtained at another institution. Self, along with many others have no problem with the new rules but would like to see more regulations.

In other words, after years of being able to control players with threats of rescinding scholarships and restrictive NCAA transfer rules, coaches see that their power is threatened by players who can just leave if they don’t like the fit. 

In a recent interview the two-time national championship winning coach had this to say.

“I think it’s bad. In theory, it’s good — from freedom of movement — all this stuff. I think sometimes it gives young people a way out without actually trying to fight through some things, but — in theory — coaches can move in theory, but it’s out of control right now because the reason they’re moving is because I can get a bigger NIL deal somewhere else. I’m not sure the reason we’re moving are for the right reasons. I think they’re for reasons that sometimes wouldn’t be best for a useful life over time. Because I do think there’s something about us staying somewhere and fighting through some stuff.”

Self is speaking some real truth, and he’s also speaking out both sides of his mouth. Coaches are also benefiting from the portal. Self added Remy Martin, the top transfer in the 2021 portal and Martin proved to be the X-Factor in helping Self defeat a host of blue and new bloods including UNC in the March Madness Tourney finals.

 

 

Martin made some of the biggest plays in leading the Jayhawks to college basketball’s mountain top. So it has its benefits for sure. Coaches who perennially have top 10 recruiting classes don’t particularly care for the transfer portal’s new leniency. As we saw this season in college football especially, adding a few key transfers can elevate a good team to elite almost overnight. 

 

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Nick Saban Says Current Model Not Sustainable

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has also been very outspoken about the transfer portal and NIL deals. Saban has been a staunch adversary against the entire operation because he feels there aren’t any set-in-stone guidelines as to how it’s supposed to work.

This is basically the same thing Self mentioned. If a player faces a little adversity, they can just enter the portal. Or if a player wants a bigger NIL deal because he’s posting numbers, he can just enter the portal and go to the highest bidder. In an interview with the AP last year Saban made these remarks: 

 “Anyone that has a little discontent can get in the transfer portal & see what can happen. I don’t think that was the intention of the transfer portal. There are 85 scholarship players. A lot of this is based on playing time.”

Saban believes the act of purchasing players is where this is headed. While he didn’t come right out and say it, this maybe a little sideswipe at Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M, who signed the highest-ranked class in the history of the composite ranking system. The Aggies signed 30 total players including eight five-star prospects, the most ever. 

The trend is becoming a bit worrisome for coaches especially. Kids going to the highest bidder. Already showing up on campus in a Range Rover and a couple hundred thousand dollars in their pockets, compliments of a plush NIL deal. 

The players have long deserved to liberate themselves from under the NCAA’s oppressive thumb and get compensated for their names, likeness and images, which produce billions for the universities and NCAA. 

However, once you open Pandora’s box…

“But that created a system where you can basically buy players,” Saban lamented. “You can do it in recruiting, I mean, if that’s what we want college football to be, I don’t know. And you can also get players to get in the transfer portal to see if they can get more someplace else than they can at your place.”

Nick Saban’s Heisman-winning freshman QB Bryce Young entered Alabama with $1M in NIL deals already in tow. 

“The concept of the name, image and likeness was for players to be able to use their name, image and likeness to create opportunities for themselves. That’s what it was. So last year on our team, our guys probably made as much or more than anybody in the country.”

Considering Self, Saban and even Deion Sanders were once and, in some instances, still are strong adversaries against the transfer portal, the fact that they’ve benefitted from it is undeniable.

It’s become a necessary evil and a quick fix for Group of Five programs to take that next step. Those Power Five programs already ruling the kingdom can continue to win titles, land blue chip recruits to help keep their top-tier programs keep ascending.

This NIL/transfer portal situation continues to change and heat up the debate rooms as it pertains to collegiate sports. Stay tuned. There’s so much more to delve into as these new opportunities for student-athletes continue to infuriate the old guard and further expose college athletics for what it is, big business.