The rumor started on the Golden Gophers’ 247Sports message board when user ‘EdenPrairieGopher’ made a post:
“Just heard from an A+ source that Cole Kramer was given $30,000.00 to play in the bowl game from our NIL Fund. He was set to leave but thought this would be a great way to pay for his February wedding.”
While this anonymous poster has no credibility or way to have his claim verified, it was partially backed up by lead Minnesota football recruiting analyst and beat writer for 247Sports, Ryan Burns. Burns is not only one of the most reliable guys when it comes to Gopher related news, but he is a co-founder and co-operator of Dinkytown Athletes, which is Minnesota’s NIL collective.
Burns backs up the idea that Kramer was given money, but he doesn’t confirm the entire post. This was Burns’ response:
“They did allocate some funds to Kramer, that’s true. I’d say that my numbers are different from yours on what Cole got, but I could care less about that. That’s not important.”
None of this is officially confirmed, but the idea of it is not far-fetched. The Gophers lost both their first-string, and second-string quarterbacks before the bowl game, and if Kramer decided to leave the team before December the Gophers would be forced to play with walk-on freshman quarterback Max Shikenjanski.
P.J. Fleck and the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ NIL hand may have been forced
Following the departure of starting-quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and backup quarterback Drew Viotto, The Gophers options at quarterback were thin. Kramer only completed eight passes in his entire career, but he does have 195 yards on the ground.
Fleck is undefeated in bowl games during his time with Minnesota. If he is willing to allocate NIL money in an attempt to keep that streak alive against Group of Five opponent Bowling Green, it is clear that a bowl record is something in which Fleck takes a lot of Pride.
Keeping in mind that none of this is officially confirmed, some Gopher fans are questioning the potential decision, while others are wondering what else Fleck was supposed to do.
For those who may disagree with this, tell me without looking at the roster, who would play QB?
— JUST ROW🇺🇸 (@KDUB2224) December 13, 2023
You have to have a quarterback. Not sure what else Minnesota was supposed to do here, especially with Athan in the portal.
— Ahlibobwa (@Ahlibobwa26) December 13, 2023
Good for him, but I would rather have Max Schickenjanski play in the bowl game. Seems like a no brainer
— Rob Ehlers (@ehlers_rob) December 13, 2023
Waste of money… bro would’ve taken 5k in a heartbeat.
— Calipari Culpret (@Greg42191626) December 13, 2023
The Precedent sent by this use of NIL money could have major consequences
The implications of a potential NIL bonus given to players to play in bowl games could have multiple cascading effects. The first precedent this could give way to regards other, more prominent/necessary college football players.
If a third-string quarterback is worth tens of thousands of dollars in a game against Bowling Green, then how much is a potential first-round pick worth? There are often backups to replace the quarterbacks that are leaving, but as the transfer portal becomes more prevalent this situation may occur more often.
There are currently over 3,000 players in the transfer portal, and with no restrictions in sight there is no telling how that number could change in the future. Outside of the transfer portal, this precedent could be the beginning of a slippery slope.
So where does it stop then? Everyone wants a slice of the pie. What about the offensive lineman, etc.? Slippery slope I don’t know a good answer for.
— The Gopher Guys (@TheGopherGuys) December 13, 2023
Kramer planned to leave so he could start the rest of his life. What if other important position players, or even position groups, decide that they will hold schools hostage with the threat of leaving the cupboards dry in the postseason? For example, how much would an NIL fund be willing to pay an entire offensive line that banded together and said they won’t play without an extra bonus.
It didn’t take much time for the college sports world to turn upside down … it’s pay to play whether we like it or not. While you can argue it’s been going on for decades – it’s now above board and it’s U G L Y.
— OriginalBigDAWG (@B1GDAW6) December 13, 2023
All of this is speculation, but this precedent could alter the sport as we know it, especially the postseason. Things get a lot more interesting when College Football Playoffs are taken into consideration. CFP contender Texas Longhorns’ backup quarterback Maalik Murphy stated that he would not travel with the team to participate in the playoffs.
Could this lead precedent lead to a future in which college football players are demanding extra paychecks to play in the postseason? As the playoff expands into 12 teams next year, they will become much more of a physical gauntlet that requires serious depth. This could result in NIL funds paying certain depth pieces to stick around.
Speculation aside, all of this could be a one-time thing. There are a lot of hungry players that are willing to play for the love of the game, but this precedent could entice them with a chance to get a head start on the rest of their lives.