Mike Leach has a way to fix the problems with Name, Image and Likeness, but it doesn’t really make all that much sense. While it may be where college football is headed long-term, the Mississippi State head coach’s solution would only cause more issues.
During a conversation with Ross Dellenger, Mike Leach discussed his plan. He believes that college sports have been professionalized by NIL and thinks that they should lean into the current model, rather than hiding behind a continued guise of amateurism.
The current landscape of collegiate athletics, particularly football, is tied to money. From top to bottom.
That notion has seeped even further into recruiting. Where recruits and players may have been paid illegally under-the-table in the past, they are now able to receive legal compensation.
Pay-for-play remains against NCAA bylaws, but legal workarounds allow booster-led collectives to use NIL opportunities as a recruiting tool for both high school prospects and transfer players. It has become an even more polarized climate of the haves and have nots.
Programs — rather boosters around the programs — with more money on the backend will have an upper hand. Period. It has created an environment that looks similar to professional sports, though on a smaller, less organized, and less defined level.
Mike Leach has a plan to fix Name, Image and Likeness.
Where some coaches are calling for NIL to be abolished, and others beg for more regulation, Leach is thinking outside of the box. He would rather call it how it is and accept college athletes as professionals.
Leach wants to lean into NIL and abolish amateurism, at least to some extent.
While speaking with Dellenger, the opinionated 61-year-old who has a law degree from Pepperdine, said that college sports should become professional. He wants a player draft, salary caps, trades, and cuts. Just like the NFL.
“This should not be a masquerade party of professionals. Are you a professional or are you not?” said Leach to Sports Illustrated. “Instead of sitting here and having 17-year-olds lecture everybody that they are professionals, well, let them be professionals. It’s one [amateur] or the other [professional]. Right now, we’ve got this whole mysterious stratosphere of people wiggling all over back and forth.”
In addition, Leach believes that college athletes should be given a choice. They can either enter college as an amateur who cannot be paid, traded, etc., or as a professional.
“With professionals comes responsibility,” he said. “Yeah, you will potentially make more money. But you are drafted and can be traded. That’s what professionals do. This college football group [of administrators], they are all shocked by that. Why are you shocked by it? Name one league of professionals who don’t do it that way.”
Mike Leach’s NIL solution raises concerns.
Leach makes a good point. NIL has brought an aspect of professionalism to college sports and he, like many, foresaw the issues in 2019.
College football may one day end up being something of a professional minor league for the NFL. However, his plan for the immediate future comes with some glaring issues of its own.
Leach wants college athletes to be drafted, signed, cut and traded. How would that work?
A high school prospect would not have a say in where he or she goes to college. He or she could then be sent off to another college in the middle of their season, or in the middle of their four-year career. They would have no say in the matter.
And yet they are still required to actually attend classes? They would have to be a student, even though they wouldn’t pick their college of choice and could be shipped off to another program at any moment. It doesn’t seem feasible, or fair.
In addition, allowing players to choose amateurism or professionalism would create two separate, and extremely different, collective bargaining agreements. A starting quarterback, who is professional could foreseeably be tackled by an amateur defensive end. What would it look like if they were both injured on the play? How are they each valued in terms of benefits and care?
The questions extend even further, but that’s the generic baseline. Leach’s plan simply doesn’t make sense— yet.
His idea for how to fix NIL could be where college sports are headed. It just needs a lot of work before it becomes feasible. So for now, Leach should drop it.