Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin is never afraid to parse his words and he isn't pulling any punches when it comes to the changing landscape in college football.
When speaking to 247Sports on Tuesday, Kiffin, despite having a top 25 ranked recruiting class coming into the 2022 season, believes that allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness will lead to kids choosing a school, not solely for what the coaching staff can do for their NFL prospects, but rather opting for a program that will pay them the most.
Kiffin compares it to a form of NFL free agency.
"In free agency in the NFL, players usually go to the most money," he said. "Every once in a while, they don't because they already have a bunch of money. Well, these kids are 17 and 18 years old. They're going to go where they're paid the most. I'm not complaining, it just is what it is."
Although he is all for players getting their money, Kiffin worries that this will cause a great divide in the conferences between the best teams with near-unlimited resources and the schools that were already struggling to compete prior to the NIL era.
"We don't have the same funding resources as some of these schools do for these NIL deals," he said. "It's basically dealing with different salary caps. Now we have a sport that has completely different salary caps and some of these schools have, whatever, five to 10 times more than everybody else in what they can pay the players. I know nobody uses those phrases, but that is what it is."
To add some context to Kiffin's assertion of schools having more 'salary cap' space, i.e. who can offer the most endorsement money, the NFL and NBA each operate under a soft cap system, while the NBA also has a luxury tax for teams that go over that soft cap. In the MLB, there is no salary cap but there is a competitive balance tax that's in place to somewhat level the playing field.
However, you couldn't implement a salary cap in college football since players don't get paid directly by their schools, but rather through endorsements. In other words, if Nick Saban can win a recruiting war for a coveted five-star recruit due to a lucrative NIL deal, there is no system in place to provide checks and balances to make it fair for other programs with fewer resources to compete with said schools.
Kiffin, who has experience coaching in both the college and professional ranks says it is just a matter of time until the NCAA or the programs who are at a unique disadvantage start to seek change.
"Somehow they're going to, I bet, try to control NIL because now you've got these salary caps at places, giving players millions of dollars before they ever play, and other places not being able to do that," Kiffin said. "What would the NFL look like if there were a couple of teams in the NFL where their salary cap was 10 times more than everybody else's salary cap? That's where we're headed, so they're going to have to do something."
To counter Kiffin's assertions, there is no cap on how much coaches can make. Not to completely dismiss his assertions, but until there can be a healthy competitive balance between the conferences and the teams within those conferences, expect another all-SEC National Title game. It will be a tough task, however, as there has always been a cry from programs with fewer financial resources to seek a competitive balance in order to compete with the big dogs. Whatever your opinion is on the new college landscape we find ourselves in, something has gotta give.
Follow Jasper Jones on Twitter: @jonesj2342