Name, Image and Likeness has changed everything about college football, especially in recruiting. Although the way things operate are not that dissimilar, programs can no longer be punished if their players receive financial compensation, assuming that the deals are done by the books.
Athletes have always been paid, but now it is legal.
Southern Methodist University is the perfect example of how college football has changed with NIL
On February 25, 1987, the NCAA suspended SMU football for the entire 1987 season due to repeated rule violations. The sanctions that the Mustangs received were the most severe ever levied by the NCAA against a major program, often called "the death penalty."
Of the many violations that were committed by SMU, the most severe had to do with money. The university and boosters maintained a slush fund that was used for "under-the-table" payments to players for at least a decade in the mid-1970s through 1986.
Eric Dickerson was one of the most prominent players implicated. He is the best running back in school history and won a (co-)national title in 1981.
Dickerson was also famously compensated to play his college football in Dallas but was long unwilling to speak publicly about what he received while in school. However, he finally revealed that information in a book titled Watch My Smoke.
The NFL Hall of Famer shared that he received $1,000 in cash in an envelope at SMU each month, which was less than what other schools offered. That equates to about $3,000 in 2022. He also received more cash and a corvette from a different booster.
Eric Dickerson is also known for driving a gold Trans Am
As the story goes -- one that he has confirmed -- Dickerson's grandmother purchased the vehicle. However, she was reimbursed in full by a Texas A&M booster who was hoping that the star running back would play for the Aggies. He was also offered $50,000 in cash, livestock and a lifetime supply of beef to play in College Station.
Ultimately, Dickerson chose to play for the Mustangs but kept the Trans Am. At the time, if the booster was to complain that he took the car and played elsewhere, it would have implicated the A&M program for using the Trans Am as an inducement. Their hands were tied and there was nothing they could do.
All of this goes to say that Dickerson received money during and after the recruiting process from SMU and other programs who wanted him. It was illegal, and for a long time, SMU and Dickerson were not willing to speak about what went down.
But that is no longer the case.
Giving a college athlete a vehicle is not illegal anymore, so long as it is done through a proper deal for Name, Image and Likeness.
In today's era, Dickerson could have signed an NIL deal with a local car dealership and driven his gold Trans Am without violating NCAA rules. He could also sign an NIL deal with one of SMU's collectives — even one that he helps support — and be paid a lucrative sum of money each year.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson is driving an Aston Martin thanks to NIL. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is driving a different luxury vehicle every few months because of an NIL deal. USC wide receiver Jordan Addison just signed a deal with Mercedes. It's happening everywhere. It's legal.
In turn, in the NIL era, SMU football is embracing its past
Earlier this year, the Mustangs used Dickerson's Trans Am in a recruiting graphic.
On Friday, prior to its first game of the 2022 season, SMU doubled down on the Trans Am. It posted an incredibly lit hype video that featured Dickerson driving his (in)famous whip.
What once led the program to the "death penalty" is now being used as a promotional asset. SMU is playing the quasi-villain role by playing into the darkest time in program history. NIL allows it to do so.