Sunday, June 23, 2024

Gorney: Revenue Sharing Marks Next Major Shift In Decade Of Upheaval

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Fifteen college football seasons ago, I stood inside the Georgia Dome as Alabama shockingly walloped Tim Tebow and his Florida team in the SEC Championship Game, the time Tebow cried on the sidelines and the Alabama players mocked the Gator Chomp after a dominant win.

I covered Tebow, still arguably the best college football player of all time, for three seasons in Gainesville. I saw him pleasantly sign autographs of all kinds for kids, the elderly, everyone – hats, shirts, jerseys, anything – until it got so overbearing he shyly asked a Florida staffer to drive him in and out of practice on a golf cart understandably ticked that many of those signatures ended up being sold online and he saw no proceeds.

A few years later, I stood in a hotel atrium with five-star quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields talking about recruiting, the good and bad of it, what they loved about the process, what they hated. NIL was not even a thing then. Money was never discussed. It was not even considered at that point. Neither was the transfer portal.

A few years ago for Rivals, I wrote a weeklong series about NIL that naively just brushed the surface of what it has already become in just a few years. It was basic and touched on the broader topics of NIL but name, image and likeness has taken on so many forms and changed so much about recruiting that it was hard to fathom even a few years ago.

It reached a different level in recent days as former four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada sued Florida coach Billy Napier, collective operator Hugh Hathcock and a former Gators staffer for fraud in what has become the most-famous NIL deal to never happen.

And then the landmark news on Thursday evening in the House v. NCAA settlement that will pay billions in back damages to thousands of former players and – even more importantly for the recruiting world and that of college football – a revenue share of around $20 million annually to each school to pay their athletes, or not, at their discretion.

There is an incredible amount of minutiae and legalese involved in this settlement that would bore even a law school student so I’ll spare you the details.

Essentially, it comes down to this: College football and college athletics forever has been changed in a short period of time. The unthinkable is about to be law. What used to be completely frowned upon and against everything the NCAA stood for (right or wrong) is now the baseline for where we’re headed.

Wow.

Questions remain. A lot of them. And I’m not going to posit that I have any of the answers yet because no one does. This is the reality of college football today – crazy times, changing times, uncertainty and everyone is in this together.

The first question will be how many schools will disperse the entire $20 million or so dollars to its student-athletes and will it be equitably spread across all sports, both men’s and women’s, or will certain dollars go revenue-producing sports and fewer dollars go to those that lose money for the university. Essentially, will the star quarterback make as much money from a school as the backup goalie on the women’s soccer team? And if not, are lawsuits coming?

There are also significant Title IX considerations here and that just smells of lawyers and advocacy groups on every side taking a stance – especially now that major money is in play and maybe some universities don’t feel they’re legally obligated to disperse that money equally. That will be an interesting one to follow.

More from a recruiting perspective, what does unlimited scholarships and the proposed, but nebulous, roster limits mean for each program? That could change the scope of recruiting in many ways.

And what does this do for NIL? Does it increase or decrease its importance, whether that’s brought in-house or stays through collectives? If a star player is making money from the school and then can bring in some NIL money as the cherry on top, how does that change anything, if at all?

It feels like a hundred years ago I stood on the Georgia Dome turf and stuck my voice recorder in Nick Saban’s face hoping for some post-game comments to come through as the Crimson Tide fans screamed in excitement.

It feels so long ago that Lawrence and Fields went through the recruiting process. So much has changed for them and for how players choose programs.

Thursday brought another momentous change to the sport. The saying that the only constant is change has never been truer in college football, for better or worse.

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