Jimbo Fisher Says NIL Deals Have Always Been Around: 'They Just Weren't Legal, Nobody Told Nobody'

The Name, Image and Likeness era of college football recruiting has dawned.

Call it the "Art of the Deal" days. NCAA enforcement staffs? Have new rules, must travel.

The first stop may be Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, where coach Deion Sanders just flipped Travis Hunter - the No. 1 player in America out of Collins Hill High in Suwanee, Georgia - from Florida State to the FCS school in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

If a lucrative Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deal was promised to Hunter, a cornerback with the athlete tag, in the recruiting process, the NCAA could find that to be against NCAA rules.

New laws across the country passed over the summer made it legal for college athletes to be compensated by various companies and businesses for use of their name, image and likeness. A plethora of lucrative deals for student-athletes followed, and now those are apparently flowing to recruits. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin called it free agency, and he said the players better make sure they get what they're promised.

"There's a strong feeling around college football that a significant NIL deal proved the driver to push top recruit Travis Hunter to Jackson State over FSU," Yahoo.com writer Pete Thamel tweeted on Wednesday. "This could be remembered as a seminal moment in recruiting, the first seismic commitment shift we've seen from NIL."

Unless specific promises were made ... because that is against NCAA rules.

According to the NCAA, its interim NIL policy prohibits pay-for-play and impermissible recruiting inducements by not allowing NIL compensation contingent on enrollment at a particular school.

"When recruiting a prospective student-athlete, a coach may share what NIL deals other members of the team have closed and how the institution has helped student-athletes maximize their NIL earning potential," the NCAA states.

Now get ready for the big but part.

"However, coaches cannot guarantee NIL deals to a prospect without violating the NCAA’s interim policy," the NCAA states.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was asked about Hunter's flip from Florida State, where Fisher used to coach, on Wednesday's SEC Network's Paul Finebaum Show. He ultimately did not share specific intel on Sanders' recruitment of Hunter, but he spoke about the specifics of the NCAA's NIL rules.

"Now, you can't promise things," said Fisher, who obviously has read the rules, unlike many coaches. "You can't say, 'I'm going to get you an NIL deal.' That's illegal. All you can do is present what other players in your university have done in the past. That is all you're allowed to do."

Then Fisher, an assistant in the SEC recruiting trenches at Auburn from 1993-98 and at LSU from 2000-06 before becoming a head coach at Florida State (2010-17) and at A&M since 2018, shed some light on what has gone on in his view.

"But I mean it's like, there were a lot of NIL deals going on, Paul, before all this was going on. They just weren't legal," Fisher said, then laughed heartily. "Nobody told nobody."

And he kept laughing.

"That's where you're at in today's times. Guys can get compensated (legally)," said Fisher, who currently has the No. 3 class in the nation. "It's enticing in recruiting. I think it's very dangerous in that way. But you've got to enforce the rules when they're broken. You've got to handle that part of it, but I think it's here to stay. Now how they modify it, what they do in the future, it's part of what we do, just like the transfer portal with us."

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Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests. A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention. Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at www.acadianhouse.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.