FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – We reported on this at the end of last week an appearance by Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman at the Alabama Football Coaches Association Convention in Montgomery where, according to those present, Pittman stole the show.
Though Pittman appeared to be the man of the hour despite being wedged in a primetime slot between Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart on opening night, it was a comment made by Saban during a question-and-answer session that caught the internet set on fire.
In discussing the impact of NIL, Saban reportedly said that a request for $800,000 was made on behalf of a cornerback recruit and that a player on his team wanted $500,000 and admission to Alabama Law School.
The two players in question were reportedly told to look elsewhere to play. Considering Saban’s open disdain for NIL’s development, this probably wasn’t the smartest move by the athletes involved.
Whether this topic was part of the discussion that took place during the now-famous photograph of Saban and Pittman in the ballroom of the embassy hotel where the convention was held is a question for Pittman during his winter press conference.
One thing coaches reported that Saban said makes perfect sense. He seems adamantly opposed to players receiving money before they even step onto the field.
Here Saban is right and likely has a growing group of allies within the University of Arkansas athletics program. Overzealous boosters at universities across the country are so excited to lure a kid with a bunch of stars next to his name that they’re promising heaps of money for an unproven commodity.
An athlete’s value is based on what they perform on the field or court while representing the brand. When a player doesn’t come into play, it’s like paying a maximum amount for an 80-foot billboard hidden behind a thicket of 100-foot trees.
The current system allows guys who are all hype and no bite to come in, raise a ton of money and contribute next to nothing.
The problem of big bucks for nothing has some guard rails in football and baseball because the time it takes to study forces players to prove themselves.
However, investing zero money in basketball is the biggest risk of all. If someone is foolhardy enough to hand an 18-year-old a massive check in advance with no appropriate requirements set out in the agreement that would contractually require portions of that money to be paid for missed appearances and an inability to represent the company’s brand , need to be paid back in court, the young man could just pocket the money and never step on the court for that university.
Just show up long enough for the checks to clear, announce a reason for not being on the team anymore, like a few seasons ago when NIL wasn’t a factor.
The NBA won’t blame them. They know how to write their contracts correctly.
If anything, they might be impressed that straight out of high school a young man outwitted grown adults who should have known better.
Ultimately, corporations and collectives get just as pissed off as Saban at the idea of dumping money on an unproven commodity. NIL contracts are better written so that performance comes before payment and accountability is required.
Knowing that the state of Arkansas doesn’t have that much money to mess around with and typically doesn’t tolerate that much unearned paychecks, it’s likely before many that it set a testing ground for standardizing NIL deals will be based mainly on incentives other states.
So many appearances or spots trigger a certain amount of money. Starting a certain number of games or playing that many minutes triggers more money.
Representing the brand as an All-SEC player or All-American triggers additional funds, as does a loyalty bonus. There might even be character bonuses to stay out of trouble, avoid certain penalties, and keep things positive on social media.
All win-win concepts that help the company’s brand, the athlete’s brand and the team he or she plays for.
The problem with NIL for coaches like Saban and Pittman doesn’t seem to be money. They just want to see that the money is being made and not get in the way of the product on the field.
No coach wants to have a guy on the sidelines for two years who can’t get off the bench for various reasons and makes a ton of money while the guys who kill themselves every day and actually play in the games get a lot less of it.
This gets under the skin of most coaches and causes problems in the dressing room.
They definitely don’t take it well when players contact their people with the coach and essentially try to blackmail them.
It’s one thing to walk up to a bus and say, “Hey, my mom’s having a hard time paying the rent” or “I’m having trouble keeping the tires on my vehicle. Do you know someone who might be able to point me to a business? who might use my advertising services so I can take care of it?”
It’s a whole different thing to tell a coach to come up with “X” bucks, or you’re going to a rival.
Something needs to change in this system.
That starts with emphasizing what the athlete brings to the company or group, rather than whether he or she physically walks onto a campus.
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