When Texas A&M – aka NIL A&M – loses to an 18-point underdog like Appalachian State, it loses more than a football game. It loses money, sooner or later.
And I’m not talking about the $1.5 million guarantee that Texas A&M paid Appalachian State to come play a game at Kyle Field in College Station on Saturday, then have the audacity to win it, too, 17-14.
And I’m not talking about the extra dollars – many undefined – and the limitless good will and positive public relations the former No. 6 Aggies will lose by not hosting ESPN’s GameDay this coming Saturday. Something that previously seemed likely since they’ll be playing against No. 13 Miami, but is no longer a reality after losing to App. State. GameDay was College Station bound before the huge upset.
The Aggies fell to No. 24 in the Associated Press poll on Sunday.
Texas A&M Was A 17.5 Point Favorite By Most Sportsbooks
Now, GameDay will go to Boone, N.C., for Appalachian State’s game against Troy on Saturday, if they can get the place cleaned up in time after the party Saturday last.
I’m talking NIL money – Name, Image & Likeness money. The Aggies either lead the nation in legal money paid to its athletes, per new NCAA rules barely a year old, or are very close to it, particularly to those members of the No. 1 signing class of 2022. As of last season, Aggie football players earned $3.3 million in NIL money, according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle.
But after losing to Appalachian State, there may be some serious renegotiations transpiring or being planned throughout A&M’s version of Wall Street. Wonder how many booster types financially supporting the collectives that pay players will be diverting their funds now away from the class of 2023?
Boosters Backing A&M Can’t Be Thrilled
I can hear the A&M NIL Collective Board Meeting Monday morning now:
“Why the hell are we paying this guy? I’m not paying that kid any more.”
“We probably need to pay this kid more.”
“Hey, we paid that signee from the 2022 class – the kid from Cypress (four-star quarterback Conner Weigman) more than Haynes. Let’s tell Jimbo to play him, or at least give Max Johnson a try. How much did we pay Johnson in his NIL deal to get him over here from LSU?”
Or maybe, all the heavily invested A&M boosters will just hold a big fire sale of NIL collectives to attract new membership.
If I’m a Texas A&M player with a nice NIL deal and I didn’t play well Saturday – and I would not be alone – I’d run to the bank first thing Monday morning, like they used to in the old USFL, according to former San Antonio Gunslingers quarterback Rick Neuheisel (1984-85).
Aggies quarterback Haynes King, who has an NIL deal reportedly worth $313,000, threw for just 97 yards and fumbled twice in the loss. One of the fumbles was at his own 29-yard line and set up an Appalachian State touchdown for a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
Aggies Offense Was Anything But Money
Texas A&M’s well-paid offense managed just nine first downs and 186 total yards with 18 minutes of possession against 41:29 by App. State. That’s embarrassing, particularly if you’re one of these rich guys sending all these players NIL money, as opposed to – for example – your children or grandchildren.
“Everybody paying for NILs is going to get tired,” Miami business magnate John Ruiz said last spring on the Paul Finebaum Show. Ruiz, a Miami graduate, has signed several Miami Hurricane athletes to NIL deals chiefly through his various companies with Miami being able to avoid the expensive collectives. Ruiz will have a strong rooting interest in Miami’s game at Texas A&M Saturday, to say the least.
“But what happens if you have a 100 people in a collective? And now all of a sudden you start paying players. There are going to be disagreements within that collective,” Ruiz said. “And before you know it, there are going to be lawsuits about the collective. Who got paid? Why did they got paid? And it’s going to get really ugly.”
Alabama Nearly Had Their Own Name, Image, Likeness Mess
Alabama coach Nick Saban likely avoided some backlash from the money people behind his team’s NIL deals with a fortunate, 20-19 win at Texas Saturday. The Tide fell to No. 2 in the A.P. poll with Georgia taking over No. 1.
“I don’t know if this is a sustainable model,” Saban said about NIL collectives to an audience of major business people in Birmingham last spring. “Because one of you folks is going to give some player a bunch of money to come to our school. And then you’re going to come to the game in full strut, thinking, ‘I’m going to tell everybody that I got that guy to come to Alabama.’ And then he’s not going to play.”
Or he’ll play bad, and Mr. NIL money man may want his money back.
“There’s a reason rich people got to be rich people,” an athletic director told me at the SEC Spring Meetings last May. “It’s because they’re smart about how they spend their money. Spending money on NILs year after year may not be smart for everyone. It’s not going to last.”
It may not last the season at Texas A&M, if it keeps playing like it did Saturday.
A&M Paid Big To Lose
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher doesn’t make NIL money, but he didn’t earn his $9 million salary either. He lost to a coach, Shawn Clark, who makes $750,000 a year – 10 times less than Fisher.
“We did not play at the level we needed to,” Fisher said, obviously forgetting to put the word “salary” in front of level. “And that’s my fault.”
Fisher, who was once considered an offensive mastermind, for the second straight year looks like he’s coaching an SEC offense that predates Steve Spurrier. And it’s getting worse.
The Aggies are 13th of 14 SEC teams in total offense and 101st in the nation with 341.5 yards a game. They are 14th in the SEC in scoring and 100th nationally with 22.5 points a game. And they are 69th in the nation and eighth in the SEC in pass offense with 242 yards a game. A&M’s offense scored one touchdown Saturday. The other came on a 95-yard kickoff return by Devon Achane.
“We’ll evaluate everything we do, seriously,” Fisher said.
So will the NIL people. And he may be answering to them more now than he ever considered.
A&M Is Searching For Answers
“Possibly,” Fisher said when asked if he will try Max Johnson or Conner Weigman at quarterback. “We’ll evaluate everything. He (Haynes King) has to play better, no doubt. He had some opportunities to make plays.”
Whatever boosters are paying the A&M defensive line may split into a separate meeting this week. Appalachian State manhandled that unit, particularly on a whopping 18-play drive of 63 yards over nearly 10 minutes for the game-winning field goal with 8:05 to play. The Mountaineers put up 181 rushing yards on the Aggies’ once proud defense.
“They kept pushing the piles,” said defensive back Antonio Johnson, who obviously had a good view. But I’m not sure if he was talking about a scrum, or piles of NIL money that App. State kept matriculating down the field.
“They were just gaining those extra yards after the contact,” he said.
Wonder how much NIL money those Mountaineer guys driving the Aggies all over the place will make this month? Probably not much.
How about distributing that $1.5 million guarantee the Aggies just paid the school among the Mountaineers. They earned it.