In 2022, Bryce Young allegedly made $3.2 million in NIL deals. Meanwhile, C.J. Stroud and Caleb Williams both made about $2.5 million. These players are at the top of the college football food chain but this is the beginning. There will likely be an explosion and some athletes will eventually earn more than five million dollars.
This could have a profound effect on the NFL because some players may opt out of the draft. It may be a tiny minority but some of them may think that head trauma isn’t worthwhile. They will already be millionaires and may choose to focus on external business interests than risking concussions (via Action Network).
Another issue with the NIL program is that it may change how teams scout athletes. The best teams pursue five-star recruits and analyze them based on their attributes. But marketability may become a key factor and influence teams. If somebody has thousands of Instagram followers and good looks a team may choose them.
We’ve already seen this in other college sports outside of football. Furthermore, this may have a profound effect on the draft because big-brand athletes may be more attractive. An NFL franchise may prefer a Texas running back with millions of fans over a similar Fresno player with a lower profile (via Front Office Sports).
In truth, small schools have always struggled to compete against the biggest programs. Throughout the past decade, the likes of Baylor, TCU, and Boise State enjoyed moderate success. They combined clever recruitment with great coaching as they overachieved against the top teams (via Bleacher Report).
Now there is another hurdle that they must overcome. It will be extremely difficult for them to lure the same talent to their rosters now. That’s because it will be challenging for them to make lucrative connections with sponsors who can pay young players. The imbalance is growing and it’s incredibly unfair.
The biggest issue with the NIL program is that bigger schools have all of the advantages. A glance at Texas A&M’s fortunes shows the impact that it had on their roster and results. They had several garbage years but suddenly turned it around after luring young high-school stars to their program.
Bigger schools will continue to attract the best players because they offer more financial opportunities. There has always been an imbalance but this is disproportionate. Nick Saban’s outrage is reasonable because the proof’s in the pudding. These teams are blowing their rivals out of the water because they’re attracting better sponsors (via CBS Sports).