Why college football is entering a ‘golden age’ with NIL deals
Ask college football fans about their thoughts on name, image and likeness (NIL) in collegiate athletics, and you will likely get a mixed bag of responses.
Some are in favor of it, some are against it, and others — like FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt — believe its both great that college athletes are able to capitalize on it, but acknowledge that there are still plenty of issues to work out.
College football is entering a golden age with NIL deals
Joel Klatt analyzed the impact of NIL deals in college athletics and how they are impacting the players in the game.
“NIL has created a golden age of college football and I believe we are at the dawn of that golden age,” Klatt said on a recent episode of his podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show.” “College football has never been better.”
Klatt’s reasoning for calling this the “golden age” is due to the depth of talent in the sport. Athletes being able to capitalize on NIL has created an incentive for top-notch players to return to college as opposed to making an early jump to the NFL.
Michigan running back Blake Corum was considered by many to be the top running back in college football last season. The 5-foot-8, 210-pound back was in the midst of a spectacular junior season before a knee injury cut his 2022 campaign short.
While Corum admitted that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh advised him to turn pro, he instead made the decision to return to Ann Arbor for his senior year with the hope of guiding his team to a national title. The Wolverines have made the College Football Playoff in consecutive seasons, but have been eliminated in the semifinal round both times.
“My goals have always been about leaving an enduring legacy at the winningest program in the history of college football,” Corum wrote in announcing his return back on Jan. 9. “Motivated by my profound love for Michigan and commitment to my education, I have decided to return for another season.”
Corum is one of several elite-level players who opted to return to school rather than jump to the NFL early.
Washington QB Michael Penix Jr., who finished the 2022 season as the nation’s leader in passing yards per game and broke the school’s single-season passing record, decided to return for a sixth season of college ball.
Oregon QB Bo Nix, Penn State OT Olu Fashano and Florida State’s Jared Verse also opted to come back.
“If you have a third-to-fifth-round grade, and you are a star on your team, you’re likely going to make as much or more money staying in school as you would in your rookie season in the NFL,” Klatt said. “Because of that, we’re getting players that would have gone [to the NFL] that are now staying in college football.”
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In addition to capitalizing on NIL opportunities that weren’t available prior to the 2021 season, players also have the ability to return to school and increase their draft value.
Corum, Penix Jr., Nix, Fashanu and Verse all landed in the first round of FOX Sports NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang’s 2024 NFL mock draft.
“They have that year to increase their value to get to the first or second round, where there is actually life-changing money even in that first contract,” Klatt added. “Those are really good problems to have if you’re a player, and if you have that choice, now you’ve got to make an actual decision.”
While Klatt spoke highly of NIL and the positive impact it has had in college football, he does believe the pendulum has swung too far in favor of the players.
In addition to making money through NIL opportunities, players also have the ability to enter college football’s transfer portal without losing a year of eligibility. According to a report from ESPN, which was published on April 18, more than 6,000 NCAA football players have entered the portal since the beginning of the 2022 season.
“College football players have never had more power than they do right now,” Klatt said. “There has to be some parameters because in every contract and in every relationship, there’s gotta be equal benefits, as well as equal responsibility. There’s got to be some recourse.
“Every good contract has both benefit and responsibility. Until that happens, schools are going to have to take a hard look at where they are investing their money.”
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