David Samson on NILs, NCAA transfer portal: ‘This is the purest free agency sports has ever seen’


Between NILs, the transfer portal, conference alignment, the arms race for television rights and the emergence of sports betting, never has the line between amateur athletes and big business been murkier, facilitating widespread changes that have rocked the college sports landscape. Money is power and that was never more apparent than earlier this week when top high-school recruit Travis Hunter, a five-star cornerback from Suwanee, Georgia (an Atlanta suburb), committed to FCS Jackson State in a momentous sea change nobody saw coming.

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Hunter’s commitment to Jackson State, coached by former NFL great Deion Sanders, is hardly a coincidence. While Sanders was quick to shoot down rumors of Hunter receiving a seven-figure endorsement deal from Barstool Sports (his former employer), tweets from Dave Portnoy would seem to contradict that, suggesting the New York-based media empire played a pivotal role in Hunter’s recruitment.

Regardless of what influence Barstool may or may not have had on Hunter’s decision, leaving Florida State at the altar in a dastardly act of rebellion (conniving patriarch Logan Roy of Succession would have been proud), the point stands that in the Wild West that is college football, everyone and everything is for sale. Amid the NIL boom and other developments, the concept of amateurism—a farce we kept alive for decades—has all but evaporated, with college football now looked at as a minor-league feeder system for the NFL. Highly sought-after recruits like Hunter are now afforded more freedom than even professional athletes, able to choose their own destiny through the transfer portal and NILs.

“What the players are doing now, it’s simply early free agency. That is the concept that exists now in college football. They don’t need service time the way they do in baseball,” said David Samson, a former MLB executive for the Marlins and Expos, during his appearance Thursday on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “There’s no draft, the way there is once you are in college or once you are draft-eligible in baseball or basketball. This is the purest free agency that sports has ever seen. This new way of players joining college programs for pay.”

It would be naïve to think these exchanges weren’t already taking place, but now coaches and schools don’t have to hide anymore, conducting their business in plain sight after years of doing it behind closed doors. “The biggest difference now is that everyone is above board. This type of negotiating was going on always,” expressed Samson. “Now the floodgates are open and you’re going to see very few early commitments to schools and it’s not going to be about the program or the head coach.”

Former ESPN president John Skipper recently posited quarterbacks at major college programs could, in the very near future, be pocketing as much as $3-5-million annually. After seeing Hunter flip his commitment in shocking fashion, it’s not crazy to think the going rate for high-school recruits will soon be just as high.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Rob Carr, Getty Images