You can understand Utah coach Kyle Whittingham complaining about NIL money, easy transfers and the effect they have on college football, the effect they will have on his football team.
He doesn’t like it. Not one bit.
These changes make his job more complicated. The money paid out to players inside top programs will be reflected, he said, in the rankings, the top 25 programs handing out the most money lining up with the top 25 programs on the field and in the polls.
Which is to say, cash rules the college game.
Wow. Who knew?
It’s always been that way, at least to a large degree, and, yes, that degree will be larger now.
Whittingham is getting ready for USC, this week’s opponent for the Utes, as the Trojans have transformed their success inside of one offseason, great players coming into Troy alongside Lincoln Riley, who bolted from Oklahoma to USC, leading to a No. 7 ranking and a 6-0 record.
Quarterback Caleb Williams transferred from the Sooners, receiver Jordan Addison from Pitt, with a boatload of others.
How did they do it? How could the Utes do it? How does anyone?
Said Whittingham: “Pay them a bunch of money … That’s just how it is. That’s where it’s heading and there’s no debate about it, unless they change the rules.”
The Utah coach doubted those changes will come now that the “can of worms” has been opened. And so players such as Williams and Addison will follow the money, get paid, and probably prosper before they ever officially turn pro. And teams like USC will prosper, too, because they have access to buckets of cash from sponsors ready to deliver those payouts.
Where does that leave Utah football?
Looking for its own buckets of cash to pass around.
Many college football fans likely agree with Whittingham, clinging to the romantic, antiquated notion that college football should be played among young people who want an education and who love a school and who love the game.
That ship, at the top college levels, left the dock long ago. It wasn’t as blatant, it wasn’t as open, it wasn’t as obvious or as fluid as it is now, payments being more clandestine, transferring in former years being more difficult.
But money was always being passed around under the table.
Now, it’s on top, as are — or will be — the teams with the most of it.
I get the romance that fans want. I get the control that coaches want.
But there’s something tragically comedic about a coach like Whittingham, who makes upwards of $6 million a year, complaining about players being able to move, players getting paid for their names, images and likenesses.
Why did Riley come to USC? The same reason those transfers did.
So when coaches moan and groan about NIL rules now and their effect on the college game, they tend to ignore the fact that they are getting rich, probably beyond their dreams when they first got into coaching.
Good coaches are worth it. Some of them. If they win, they bring a whole lot of green into a school. They’re professionals.
But, let’s face it, so are the players, the best of them.
They make their money as they get their education … err, as they prepare for their shot at the NFL … and they’ll go on chasing that money to the places where their own best interests can be served.
That’s pretty much the way the world works, and college football is no exception. Forget the romance, that’s gone.
Whether Utah football can keep up with other programs in this regard is the question of the day, one coaches and administrators are desperately connecting with those with deep pockets to answer.
Whether Whittingham wants to deal with that in the seasons ahead will play a role in how long he sticks around, he always having said he’s disinclined to coach into the later stages of his life. Too many other good things for which to live.
But many of those things are available to him because he’s got stacks of cash in the bank, sound-and-solid investments all around. He’s made his money.
Now, others are looking to make their own.