NFL Hall of Fame TE and Undisputed co-host Shannon Sharpe had critical words for Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart on his comments regarding Name Image Likeness (NIL) and his players.
Unc Shannon sharpe went off on Georgia Bulldogs football coach Kirby Smart over his NIL Comments pic.twitter.com/9VdduGKZgs
— Shannon sharpes burner (@shannonsharpeee) July 20, 2022
Sharpe looks at NIL through his own viewpoint, as someone who grew up raised by a grandmother living on $400 a month. Sharpe contrasts this meager existence with someone like Kirby Smart, who just received a contract extension making him the highest paid coach in college football. Smart earns an average of $11.25 million per year before bonuses under his new contract. There is obviously a huge discrepancy in standard of living between someone who earns $400 a month and someone earning $937,500 a month.
Sharpe Is Right
Sharpe is right in his belief that all college athletes should be able to earn whatever their market value is in NIL when they enter college. If a recruit negotiates and plays schools off each other to come up with the best financial deal for themselves, that is simply business. If someone is willing to pay a recruit $100,000 for his NIL rights for a year, that is what his rights are worth. A coach shouldn’t comment on (or attempt to dictate) what players receive in NIL payments.
NIL payments set a base floor for any college football recruit. If their rights are worth $100k as an incoming freshman and they have a stellar season, receive Freshman All-American and all-conference recognition, maybe their rights are worth $125k the next year. If they make All-American and receive a postseason award recognizing them as the best at their position in the nation (see Jordan Addison at Pitt), their NIL value may skyrocket to $1 million after their second season. This is the current market for NIL in college football, and we have to embrace it.
NIL Benefits College Athletes
NIL rights also open a whole new world of opportunities to recruits. Prior to NIL, a college football player received a cost of attendance stipend for the athletic department. The stipend provided a player with walking around money to help pay for expenses incurred going to college outside of tuition/room/board covered in an athletic scholarship. Some football players would send some or all of this stipend home to help their parents pay bills. With NIL, a player can help parents pay the rent each month, pay the electric bill, pay to fix a car when it breaks down. NIL allows players to give their families and themselves a little financial breathing room.
NIL also teaches players financial responsibility. Yes, some college players are going to do the typical college student thing and blow their money on cars or trips or gifts for friends and family. Better they learn a simple lesson about the value of a dollar now when they’re in their first year in college and four years from now when they’re in their first NFL contract. Better to blow $25k on some ill-advised decisions than $25 million. NIL allows college players to learn how to deal with large sums of money, maybe larger than they’ve ever seen before, and begin on their path to financial literacy.
Sharpe Is Wrong
Kirby Smart’s concern is about building and maintaining a championship program. Smart’s line about “we have guys making more coming in than the guys going out” refers to freshmen receiving more in NIL than the proven upperclassmen who start and star for Georgia. Smart is speaking to the difficulty of maintaining a positive locker room culture. If juniors and seniors who are starting a receiving less in NIL (or nothing at all) while freshmen who are sitting on the bench are receiving more because of they were highly coveted recruits, that can cause some friction. Friction leads to resentment which leads to a fractured locker room. Fractured locker rooms struggle to win games.
Sharpe criticizes Smart because of his salary, implying someone making over $4 million a year in his first year as a head coach has no place in commenting on someone coming from a single-parent home and living in poverty. Sharpe ignores the fact that Smart worked to arrive at a point in his career where making $4 million a year is the standard.
Smart worked as an administrative assistant for the Georgia football program in 1999 and worked his way up through jobs at Valdosta State, Florida State, LSU, and Alabama before taking the Georgia head coach position. Smart worked for 18 years before he received that $4 million salary. By criticizing Smart’s salary when he took the Georgia job, Sharpe is dismissing all of the hard work and sacrifices Smart made over the previous 18 years to arrive at that point. Dismissing all of Smart’s hard work to achieve his current salary would be just as unfair as someone dismissing Sharpe’s $3 million a year annual salary with ESPN. Sharpe worked hard to arrive at the point he is at today, and so did Kirby Smart.
Smart Is Right
Part of Smart’s concern is players who receive NIL based on their name as recruits haven’t earned the recognition like players already in the program who play, start, and contribute to team success. A recruit’s NIL value is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, same as a veteran starter’s NIL value. If a veteran is receiving less in NIL payments, it is a failure of marketing, not of the marketplace. You don’t blame the market for an inefficiency, the salesperson takes the blame there. If you’re a star player on a successful team and a recruit is receiving more in NIL than you, you’re not getting your name and likeness out there enough for people to see the value.
NIL increases the challenge of working with college athletes, because the professional athlete dynamic is now thrown into the mix. Concerns about playing time and stats to justify NIL value can supersede concerns about what is best for the team. Trying to convince an underclassman to accept a limited role when they feel they’re being paid for starter minutes is an issue. Smart is right to voice concerns about issues with NIL that make his job more difficult. The NIL marketplace today creates more challenges for coaches to build winning programs. Navigating those challenges and still winning is why coaches are compensated so well for the job they do.
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Well written. I can see both sides of it. I agree with nil but I do think somehow it should be expanded to current starters not just recruits. I’m just not sure how that would happen.great article though. I enjoyed it.
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