With the new availability of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals enabling college athletes to make their own money and the new one-time transfer exception that seemingly allows athletes to change schools at will, the power in college football finally seems to be swinging toward the players. However, it also seems some coaches still long for the old days, when a college player’s indentured servitude was rewarded solely with an education.
According to the Washington Post reports, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is not a fan of the new transfer rule. “There are no consequences,” Swinney said. “There are no rules. I’m all for transferring. I personally think we should let them go whenever they want. I just think they should sit a year and then you get that year back upon graduation.” Of course, what Swinney overlooks is he, as a coach, has the power to not renew a student athlete’s scholarship whenever he wants. Plus, he also has the freedom to leave Clemson at any time for any other job he wants with “no consequences.”
In that same article, Ohio State coach Ryan Day expressed concern that colleges and coaches have no control over a player’s NIL deal. “The concerning part is that the coaches can’t set that up,” he said. Day’s concern is quite ironic, considering that the Ohio State athletic department earned almost $234 million from the efforts of its student athletes in 2020, while Day himself was the ninth-highest paid football coach in America, earning $6.61 million in 2021. But sure, college coaches and athletic departments should have a say in how their athletes market their own name, image, and likeness.
Not to be outdone by Swinney and Day’s comments, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach has issues with players opting out of bowl games to prepare for the NFL draft. Leach apparently still believes in giving it the old college try, saying, “You’ve got an obligation to the place that helped build and develop you and finish it out in the bowl. That’s part of it. You owe it to your team, you owe it to your fans, you owe it to your coaches and it’s the most bizarre thing in the world to me.”
Leach also noted that players opting out of bowl games is “one of the biggest absurdities that I’ve seen, and it’s selfish, too.” This, of course, overlooks the absurdity that Leach himself selfishly opted out of Oklahoma’s bowl game as an assistant coach when he left to take over at Texas Tech in 1999. Leach also seems to have no issues with the absurdity of fellow head coaches like Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley selfishly “opting out” on their jobs at Notre Dame and Oklahoma, respectively, to jump to more lucrative coaching positions elsewhere before their teams’ bowl games.
The old saying goes that “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is being proven once again by the college football coaches – and athletic programs – who’ve made millions off the backs of unpaid student athletes. After years of schools and coaches wielding the power to control the lives of unpaid student athletes, the NCAA has reluctantly allowed the pendulum to swing in favor of the players. While the old system was inherently corrupt, the new age of college football, with NILs and free transfers, has only highlighted the moral corruption of those coaches who still cling to the good old days.
In addition, as the 2021 season has been the first year of both NILs and the one-time transfer exception, college football is currently akin to the Wild West, with athletes going wherever they find the best offers or opportunities. Ultimately, the NCAA may throttle back some of that freedom once the dust settles, but there’s no getting the toothpaste back in the tube. The power structure has changed and, in one form or another, a new era of college football is upon us. Unfortunately, as the high-level hypocrisy of several coaches has demonstrated, some coaches and administrators may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into that new age.