While the Dabo Swinneys and Nick Sabans of the world wail and moan over NILs, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is embracing the new landscape, going as far as to call college football a professional sport.
“We’re a professional sport and they’re professional players,” Kiffin expressed to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated. “I’ve said from the beginning, players should get paid. They do the work. Why that should be limited to a scholarship check, I disagree with. And they shouldn’t be [paid] all equal. That’s not what happens in the real world. Why does their best player get paid the same as their worst player? That’s not real life.”
The walls have come down since last summer’s Supreme Court ruling allowing players to profit off their name, image and likeness with athletes and programs becoming increasingly brazen in their business dealings. Saban made headlines a week ago with his criticism of Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, accusing him of “buying” his entire team. Fisher insists that isn’t the case (he claims only one of his recruits received an NIL deal), though Kiffin would argue he has nothing to apologize for.
“It’s not the size of the stadium, not the head coach, not the campus or the conference, the No. 1 thing will be money,” said Kiffin, suggesting Saban and others who oppose NILs are naïve to think outside factors like prestige and campus facilities could ever hold a candle to the almighty dollar. “Go ahead and build facilities and these great weight rooms and training rooms, but you aren’t going to have any good players in them if you don’t have NIL money. I don’t care who the coach is or how hard you recruit, that is not going to win over money.”
With boosters pouring all their resources into recruiting, sweetening the pot with six and seven-figure NIL deals, the stakes have never been higher with bidding wars ensuing for coveted transfers like former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams and reigning Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison, both headed to USC. The fear, at least among certain coaches, is that the sudden influx of NIL dollars could lead to an uneven playing field with deep-pocketed programs like Texas A&M and USC laughing all the way to the bank. Kiffin offers a creative solution, advocating for an NIL salary cap to combat some of the recent chaos we’ve seen with players exercising their autonomy by using the transfer portal as a form of free agency.
“Ideally, there should be some type of cap,” said Kiffin. “Unless there are changes of rules around caps and contracts, how is every elite college player not at the end of their season [entering the portal]?”