For those of us who predicted doom and gloom for college football after the NCAA passed legislation this summer to allow athletes to profit off their name, likeness and image (NIL), welcome to our worst nightmare.
It’s called . . . this week.
There is the recent past, which involved the announcement Tuesday that the fourth-string quarterback at Ohio State (Quinn Ewers) signed a $1.4 million deal that will pay him more than what the USA Today reported as the yearly salaries last season of every football coach in the Mid-American Conference, the Sun Belt Conference and 12 of the 14 football coaches in Conference USA.
OK, OK. In contrast to those coaches, Ewers well get all of his loot over three years instead of one, but the point is the same: This is a bad look.
Woody Hayes won five national championships at Ohio State as head football coach, and he made $43,000 in 1978 during his last year with the Buckeyes. Now the backup to the backup of the backup QB at Ohio State will get 34 times that amount from GT Sports Marketing for signing autographs.
Then you have the not-so-distant future, which will involve Saturday night’s game in Charlotte deciding more than whether No. 3 Clemson is closer to a national championship this season than No. 5 Georgia.
With their agents and accountants rooting nearby (maybe on the sidelines or even from the huddle), you’ll have Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei and Georgia’s JT Daniels trying to outshine each other before all of those decision makers for Corporate America, you know, waiting to shove more money into the bank account of whichever quarterback looks the most marketable on national television.
What a mess, and it will only worsen — along with all of the chaos this NIL thing is creating in locker rooms throughout college football between the haves and the mostly have-nots.
Then again, Daniels is among those saying he’ll give some of his endorsement money to teammates. He has a national deal with Zaxby’s, a national fast-food chain based in Athens, Georgia, the Bulldogs’ home. He reportedly will provide more than discounts on chicken fingers to his offensive linemen and others.
In addition to that Zaxby’s deal and another one for six figures involving a trading card company, DawgNation said Daniels signed an NIL contract with an apparel company called Rhoback. Under the Rhoback deal, DawnNation said Daniels will share “performance polos with each of his teammates in an effort to spread the wealth.”
Uiagalelei didn’t make such a promise to those in the Clemson locker room after he finalized his contract with Dr. Pepper for a national ad campaign. He also signed at least a couple of other deals, including one with Bojangles, which means this Clemson-Georgia game also will feature a war between the chicken franchises represented by the two starting quarterbacks.
This is the same Uiagalelei who has started just two college games, and it’s not as if Daniels has an accomplished resume.
Daniels started as a freshman at Southern Cal in 2018, but he tore his ACL to end his season the following year after the first game. After he transferred to Georgia in 2020, he didn’t play for the Bulldogs until the last four games of their regular season. Even so, he did enough (4-0 record, followed by a Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati, while completing 67% of his passes for 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) to join Uiagalelei among the Kings of NIL athletes in college football.
If you’re a pure fan of the sport, this NIL madness is scary beyond starting and backup quarterbacks getting mighty bucks, mostly on potential.
What happens this season when potential becomes reality for players?
How many endorsements offers will a tailback for Clemson or Georgia receive on Sunday morning after running wild on Saturday night?
What will keep any player in that Clemson-Georgia game — with folks such as those CEOs watching — from going for individual highlights instead of staying within the framework of their teams?