NIL money + transfer portal = chaos

Of the Power Five conferences, the ACC is the most circumspect. If it’s not as brawny as the braying SEC, neither is it as flaky as the Big Ten. (“We’re not playing this fall. No, wait! We ARE playing!”) The ACC says and does nothing without due consideration. There’s your preface.

Last week, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said: “I think it’s time to look at alternative models for football.”

This was the second heavy hitter – speaking with ESPN, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was the first – to suggest that college sports, mostly meaning college football, needs to step into a post-NCAA world. The advent of NIL money and the transfer portal has destroyed the last shred of the association’s credibility.

The College Football Playoff came into being in 2014. The NCAA has nothing to do with the CFP, which is run out of Dallas by Bill Hancock, who once upon a time oversaw the Final Four for the NCAA. As immense as March Madness is, it’s not college football. No amateur sport is as big as college football, which has ceased being an amateur sport.

ExploreCollege coaches, athletic directors trying to manage ‘off-the-rails’ NIL

Big-time college boosters get a bad name, often deservedly so. We’ve just been reminded that big-time boosters didn’t get rich by being stupid. When state legislatures cleared the way for college athletes to receive money for usage of their names/images/likenesses, boosters took to boosting on Day 1. They formed “collectives” and pooled money. Just like that, athletes were banking above-the-table dollars.

Ten months after NIL money became an actual thing, it became both an amusing and ridiculous thing. The NIL agent for Isaiah Wong, a Miami basketball player, declared that his client’s deal warranted redoing because Nijel Pack, who is relocating from Kansas State to Miami, landed a bigger deal – $800K and a car.

Quoth Adam Papas, agent for both Wong and Pack: “(Wong) has seen what incoming Miami Hurricane basketball players are getting in NIL and would like his NIL to reflect that he was a team leader of an Elite Eight team.”

ExploreNIL timeline: How we got here and what’s next

Nick Saban felt the need to aver that Alabama hadn’t tampered with Louisville receiver Tyler Harrell, now an Alabama receiver. Jordan Addison, the nation’s best returning wideout, has entered the portal. ESPN revealed that Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi called Lincoln Riley, now of USC, to suggest that inappropriate overtures were made. (Inside Texas reports Addison will choose between Texas and, um, USC.)

Last week, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson claimed one of his players reported an offer from another school conveyed by another player. Said Clawson: “If he had interest in going, there was a scholarship available and a certain amount of name/image/likeness money that would become available.”

Also from Clawson: “There doesn’t appear to be any enforcement, so nobody’s quite sure what the rules are. It’s like a road without a speed limit.”

Ten days ago, the NCAA issued guidelines regarding NIL. Not rules, we note, but “guidelines.” Said Jere Morehead, chair of the NCAA’s board of directors and Georgia’s president: “While the NCAA may pursue the most outrageous violations that were clearly contrary to the interim policy adopted last summer, our focus is on the future.”

Translation: “Given that our enforcement department consists of an intern named Timmy, don’t expect us to penalize anybody for anything ever. We suggest you contact your state legislator.”

For decades, coaches have groused that NCAA regulations are whimsical at best and moronic at worst. We’ve now ventured into a realm where the purported ruling body hasn’t gotten around to making any rules, not that it would matter if it had. (Wake me when those Kansas basketball sanctions are announced.)

It’s impossible to govern when your membership has no confidence in your ability to do so. NIL money has turned athletes into independent contractors. The portal empowers them to follow the money wherever it leads. The NCAA’s response is to issue guidelines offering zero guidance. Here sits collegiate sports in all its color and pageantry – and chaos.