OPINION

OPINION| RICK FIRES: College coaches should support NIL with their own money

Wow, what a surprising turn of events.

No, I'm not spouting off today about Arkansas fans slobbering all over themselves at the return of Bobby Petrino, who was fired as head coach of the Razorbacks for misconduct in 2012. Today's topic is much larger than any one person, however flawed.

I'm addressing runaway pay-for-play where some of the top college football players are supposedly making millions of dollars while athletes in non-revenue sports receive very little or nothing at all. This new system is called Name, Image and Likeness but make no mistake, it's pay-for-play.

It's still hard for those of us who have followed college football for a long time to fathom how far the pendulum has swung, where even rumors of players being paid in years past could launch an investigation. Now, the topic of buying players is discussed out in the open.

Nebraska Coach Matt Rhule talked about it last week after the Cornhuskers finished 5-7 on the season.

"Make no mistake: a good quarterback in the portal costs $1 million to $1.5 million to $2 million right now," Rhule told reporters. "So, just so we're on the same page, right? Let's make sure we all understand what's happening. There are some teams that have $6 to 7 million players playing for them."

Do you remember how all of this came about? It was a boomerang effect against the insane amounts of money college coaches were being paid.

Never mind that scholarship players receive a free education, which anyone who works at full or part-time jobs while attending college would consider quite a bargain. Still, there were many who complained loudly, and rightly so, that young athletes should receive some compensation for their time and labor in the field of athletics. A reasonable request, for sure, but $6-7 million for one player, as Rhule suggested?

That's far removed from what former NBA star and social activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about the topic of play-for-play when he appeared at the University of Arkansas in 2018. He supported paying college athletes and suggested all the money should go into a money pot where every athlete on any team within the program could withdraw.

That may be happening at an isolated program or two but not nearly enough to feed the beast that is college football. Coaches are now complaining they need help in attracting (buying?) players, especially from fans who support their programs.

"For all you folks that want us to keep winning. .... I'd love to see 5,000 people donate $1,000 to our NIL," North Carolina State Coach Dave Doeren said. "Get us to a point where we can recruit, retain and develop and have a program in the NIL world where the guys on our roster are able to benefit from that."

So, fans who purchase tickets, pay for parking, attend the games and fight the crowds, buy merchandise and food at inflated prices inside the stadium, are expected to dish out even more money to help coaches keep their jobs?

I've got a better idea.

How about coaches give up a percentage of their salaries when they pass around the plate at the cathedral of college football?

How about Doeren, who has a .587 winning percentage in 11 years at North Carolina State, chipping in 10% of the $5 million he makes at the school?

Closer to home, how about Sam Pittman, who was retained as head coach following an awful 4-8 season, contribute 10% of the $6 million he receives annually for leading the Razorbacks.

And how about Bobby Petrino, especially, who was rehired when no other state employee would've been allowed to return under similar circumstances, contribute 10% or more to attract (buy?) the players he needs to run his style of offense?

If we're going to be ridiculous about pay-for-play, let's make it mandatory that coaches step forward first with their check books out and contribute to NIL before asking any more from the fans. Perhaps administrators who approve jumbo salaries and buyouts like the one Jimbo Fisher received at Texas A&M should be forced to contribute, as well.

Either way, lines are forming fast at the transfer portal. So, act now before all the good players are gone.

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