The doom and gloom of college football’s future is a hot topic this offseason. From the transfer portal to NIL, there’s plenty of chatter about where the sport is heading.
A few famous names from college football generations past were in Birmingham this week for the Nick Saban Legacy Award ceremony and this was certainly discussed. Former coach Steve Spurrier and Archie Manning weighed in on the evolution of the game both on and off the field.
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Spurrier, who coached 26 years at Duke, Florida and South Carolina said he’s happily retired now that he doesn’t have to wade through all that comes with today’s game. The recipient of the inaugural legacy award presented by the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club, however, wasn’t all negative when it came to players benefitting from the billion-dollar sport they play.
In fact, he’s long been a proponent of players sharing a piece of the pie as the financial numbers exploded in recent decades.
“I do think players should be sharing the pot a lot more,” Spurrier said Monday. “I mentioned that about 12-15 years ago. We need to be giving our players three or four or five thousand bucks a year. It didn’t go that year but it eventually came around.”
He was a vocal proponent of this at a few SEC Spring Meetings a decade ago, discussed a plan to pay players $3,500 to $4,000 a year at the 2012 event in Destin.
“Again,” he said in 2012, “we as coaches would be willing to pay it if they were to approve it to where our guys could get approximately three-, four-thousand bucks a year. It wouldn’t be that much, but enough to allow them to live like normal student-athletes.”
The cost of attendance scholarships began playing stipends in 2015 to help athletes pay for the incidentals not covered by the traditional scholarships.
By 2021, the ability for athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness added new income possibilities.
“When it first came out, everybody said it will be like pro football,” Spurrier said Monday in Birmingham. “It’s not like pro football. Pro football has rules. They have a draft. They have salary caps. You have to stay with a team two or three years before you can become a free agent. So they had rules in place that they could live with. At some point, I would think the colleges get together because you have to have some kind of rules.”
Manning, a player at Ole Miss in the 1960s and father to Peyton and Eli Manning, has seen the sport change over the years. Now his grandson, Arch Manning, is the unanimous No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class in a much different world than his son’s navigated.
I have expressed reservations about some of the unintended consequences of NIL rules that are currently being explored by the NCAA.
“I can’t say I’m crazy about it,” Archie Manning said Monday. “I understand it’s there. I wish they were a little more uniform in nature throughout the school. It’s like the wild, wild west. I do know I love the game of college football and I don’t want it ruined.”
Changes are already being discussed, as Sports Illustrated and others have reported, around the NIL collectives that have formed in the vacuum of an unregulated market.
“Yeah, I think a lot of people are a little people are frustrated,” Spurrier said. “It’s not football and it shouldn’t be. But right now, this is where we are. If you don’t have a big collection of money ready to give these guys, you’re not going to be recruiting very well, it seems like. I just hope, whoever the new (NCAA president) is going to put some rules into place. Incoming players should be able to receive some amount of money but there should be some kind of cap on it.”