The former NFL coach who once insisted he’s not going to be the Alabama coach would like to bring a little of the NFL to Alabama.
Nick Saban appeared recently on the Know Mercy podcast with Stephen A. Smith. Saban complained (again) about the new NIL reality of college football. And he expressed a preference for an NFL-style model to pay players.
“If we want to change the model of college football and follow the NFL model, what I would like to see — if that’s the case — is that we pay the players — everybody’s got a part of their scholarship that gives them so much money,” Saban said, via David Cobb of CBSSports.com. “But now you’re talking about making college student-athletes employees, and that in and of itself may have some issues that would have to be resolved. So you’re talking about a similar model to the NFL where you’ve got to get some sort of legal right to be able to do this.”
The problem is that there is no legal right for independent colleges to agree to collective rules for paying players. It would be a blatant antitrust violation.
That’s what opened the door to name, image, and likeness payments in the first place. The NCAA’s entire existence was shown to be, in many key respects, an antitrust violation. Dozens of independent universities hid under the NCAA umbrella, which drew strict limits on what any of them could give to players — and which affirmatively prevented those players from profiting from their own unique identities.
The colleges have been clamoring for some sort of federal legislation that will give them what the antitrust laws prevent. Basically, they want an exemption for laws that apply to everyone else.
So why does the NFL have a salary-cap model? It happens because the NFL’s players belong to a union that negotiates with what the law calls a “multi-employer bargaining unit.” No antitrust issues arise from having a salary cap and free-agency rules and a draft and other devices for dividing up the work force among 32 different businesses/teams in a fashion aimed at giving each one a fair shake.
Saban continues to whine about NIL because the current system hurts his ability to recruit. There’s only so much money he can shake from the Alabama booster tree, and plenty of it needs to go to the program, not the players. Other schools with bigger alumni bases and/or in bigger markets can get more money, both for the program and for the players.
“[Name, image and likeness] wasn’t supposed to be me going to give a speech to raise money from alumni so we can get enough money in our collective so [we] can pay players,” Saban said, coming very close to acknowledge the fact that NIL requires him to rob Peter to pay Paul. “That’s not what it was supposed to be.”
What it was supposed to be was a way to eliminate a clear and obvious violation of the legal rights of the kids, something that happened for decades without any reckoning. When the bill finally became due after the protracted existence of an inherently corrupt system, things got a little chaotic. And, as we’ve said before, the NCAA and its schools have earned every ounce of the chaos they’re currently experiencing.
It’s a small price to pay for generations of screwing the student-athletes.
And so, as coaches like Nick Saban adjust to a new reality, we’ll periodically see their desperation morph into a cascading word salad of out-of-touch justifications for not letting players get everything they can.
“I’m happy that the players sort of have the opportunity to use their name, image and likeness to make money for themselves,” Saban said. “I think that’s great. But I always thought that you went to college to try and create value for your future in terms of doing well academically, being a good person, trying to develop a career as a player. . . . I don’t like the trend toward ‘How much money can I make while I’m in college?’ How much of a distraction is that to your ability to stay focused on the things you need to do to create value for your future?”
That’s right, Nick. Capitalism is good, when you’re the capitalist. It’s a “distraction” only when it detracts from your ability to capitalize on a system that gives you a free labor force without complicating your effort to separate more and more of your own compensation package from boosters who have only so much money to hand over.
Frankly, it would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic to see multimillionaire coaches trying so hard to keep what they have that they’re willing to block players from getting every penny they deserve.