Lane Kiffin again expresses concern over state of college football

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, back in Tennessee for SEC Media Days, expressed his concern about the current college athletics landscape with NIL and the transfer portal.

Kiffin acknowledged that Ole Miss has used the portal to its advantage, but from a macro view, he felt compelled to share why these circumstances, he thinks, are problematic.

“I’ve always said that I think it’s phenomenal that players get a chance to get paid, which is great,” Kiffin said in his opening statement Thursday. “I do think, which I’ve stood up here and said before when it first happened, that there’s going to be some major issues, and we’re creating free agency with the portal.

“And with NIL, you’ve got a lot of pay-for-play going on, and that is what it is. Those two things combining, there’s not a system in place. I don’t think there’s any other sports at any level that are like this, that really, you every year, can opt into free agency. Really, twice a year.

“I was just thinking on the plane ride over here. What if you had that in other sports? Tom Brady, A’Ja Wilson, Lionel Messi, LeBron James, what if every year those guys can opt to free agency, twice a year, really and they have no long-term contracts? Basically everybody is not even on a (one-year) contract because they can leave in two windows.

“It’s created a lot of issues and roster changes. I’m not complaining about it because we take advantage of free agency, but at the same time, I don’t think that’s really good for college football. These massive overhauls of rosters every year, really, is not in the best interest of college football.

“When you add the NIL at the same time, we have created, I’ve said it before, we’ve got different caps and no luxury taxes. So we’ve got professional sports because that really is what we are, what’s been created now, and there’s no caps on what guys can make or what teams’ payrolls are.

“When this first came out, basically said, whatever programs have the most aggressive boosters with the most money are going to get the players. And now we are adding some states that you don’t have to follow the NCAA, and now the university can take their money and give it to the collective to give it to the players.

“So now we really have pay-for-play that the biggest schools with the most donors, most aggressive, and the school wants to spend the most money paying the players to play to come to their school, is where we are with that.

“So there’s kind of your state of the union of what all coaches are dealing with around the country. And really, a poor system that isn’t getting better is now going to get worse with this. Because again, now we just – look at recruiting rankings, and you’re going to see that they are usually going to follow this donor base and what schools are going to decide to give the most money to the players.

“So it is what it is. We’ll deal with it like we do with everything else. But somehow, it’s got to get fixed because there’s no system around it.”

Kiffin said he doesn’t have the clear solutions, but he feels the process will be addressed and regulated.

“I’ve told our players. I’ve told our parents of our significant players, it is a great time to be a kid or a parent with where college football is,” he said. “They will probably eventually fix this, so you will be this one window of a couple years where you can literally leverage your program every window or you can go into free agency and find the most money out there. And now we are seeing you really can get paid three times if you want to.

“You can get paid coming out of high school. You can one-time transfer, go in, get the most money and get paid again. And then you can grad transfer and then get paid again. Eventually you’ll not be able to do that, I would think, and have that leverage every semester to be able to do that. I’ve told them it’s an awesome time for them.”

Among Kiffin’s other thoughts on the topic:

“Like I said before, you want to look at the best boosters in the country, and eventually the schools that have the most money that decide to pay the players, just look at recruiting rankings the next few years. That will give you your answer.

“Because again, it is what it is, guys, and you can’t fault them. You’ve got 18-year-old kids deciding where to go. The No. 1 thing they decide on is money, their salary. I think you guys would have done that when you’re 18. You can’t fault them. You see some kids, ‘why is that kid going way over there?’ Going there because you’re making more money. So you can’t fault them for that. That’s the setup that they are in.”

“I think like almost everything on this subject, there’s good and bad to everything that comes in. I think that revenue-sharing on the surface would be great because players are getting paid, and it’s coming from the money they are helping make the university. But, again, I try to think things through, and the other things that happen when you do something. Just like when everybody is like, ‘We have this NIL, it’s great, and this portal, it’s great. Whoa.’ And I’m not saying I was the only one saying it. ‘Whoa, this is a disaster coming because you just legalized cheating and you just told donors they can pay the players is what you did.’

“And it’s supposed to be set up – well, really it’s for your name, image, likeness for your marketing. Again, that’s not what happened. That’s not what’s happening. They are getting paid to go to school. So it’s pay-for-play.”