The National College Football League

It’s a beautiful morning outside of the Horseshoe; one might even call it perfect. These mornings aren’t typical in Ohio; one will usually look outside on an average Columbus morning in April or May and see a sky painted gray with black ice printing the roads. With Ohio Stadium in his background, the renowned Buckeye quarterback CJ Stroud poses for a picture with his new, state-of-the-art luxury Bentley SUV. Just a few months ago, Stroud was driving a Mercedes G-Wagon valued at $200,000. Down south, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers can be seen prowling the streets of Austin in his Aston Martin, similar to that of Joe Haden’s Lamborghini Murcielago. All of this commotion surrounding college football players and their new luxury cars begs the question: what’s changed? What happened to the scandal surrounding Auburn’s Cam Newton publicly driving an Escalade? It boils down to one thing: the NCAA’s newly controversial NIL policy.

The NIL policy, also referred to as the Name, Image, and Likeness policy, allows college players to profit off of their (you guessed it!) name, image, and likeness. According to Sports Illustrated’s Fan Nation, an online network of breaking news pertaining to sports across the country, the NIL policy “gives players the right to publicity that ordinary citizens already have, but that the NCAA didn’t previously allow.” That’s right–college football players can now make money from their own popularity and skill from businesses or schools in the form of gifts. In the last year, we’ve seen more 18, 19, and 20-year-olds in Louis Vuitton than we’ve seen in the entire history of college sports. While it may seem beneficial, we must ask ourselves: what does this mean for the future of college football?

A short six-hour drive from Stroud in his Bentley SUV, Kevin Warren, Big Ten Conference commissioner, announced that the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will be joining the Big Ten by 2024. The Big Ten, a conference dominated by midwestern schools, accepting two teams from the West Coast? Our phones buzzed uncontrollably in our bookbags during the press announcement. Needless to say, the college football community was shocked. So what d’ya think? my friend asked, Is USC going to fly across the country to play a 9 AM game now? But the switch wasn’t because of USC and UCLA’s burning, passionate desire to travel three-plus hours by plane to play a conference game. No, it has long been known that these West Coast teams were in it for the money and the fame. According to USC reporter Ryan Abraham, “The more you hear about the Vanderbilts and the Purdues making more money than you are, and the equal sharing [in the Pac-12] despite having the LA market. . . It wore on USC.” Through an obvious dig at Vanderbilt and Purdue’s less than stellar reputations throughout the CFB universe (Vandy went 0-8 and Purdue went a mediocre 6-3 in conference play in the 2021-2022 season), Abraham makes it quite clear that for a team with as much potential as USC, they deserve the money, too. 

Through good intentions, the USC and UCLA programs unintentionally initiated the creation of two dominant mega-conferences, if you will. As USC and UCLA deserted the Pac-12, schools like Stanford and Washington scrambled to join the Big Ten or the Southeastern Conference. The Pac-12 is a ticking time bomb with the 2024 season as its time of detonation. Big Ten and SEC domination is inevitable; make sure to hold onto your hats as we leave the Power Five for the Power Two.

Some celebrate that these college football players and teams are finally receiving the recognition they deserve, whether through the new NIL policy or through new media sharing rights with USC and UCLA’s bold move over to the Big Ten. However, in reality, we are creating a league of teams and players with one focus: money. The NIL incentivizes players to attend bigger, better schools with bigger, better connections with businesses, such as car dealerships, that can hook up these barely adults with Bentleys, Lamborghinis, and Aston Martins. Why wouldn’t a 16 or 17-year-old recruit choose the school that can provide cooler cars, better concert tickets, or better conditions for his family?

But Frankie, how is this different from the obvious under-the-table deals made with bigger, better schools in the past?

Simply because we are creating a generation of football players that care more about money than the sport itself. With the arrival of the inadvertent showiness that comes with the NIL policy, these recruits see the obvious, showy Aston Martin more than the coaches, teammates, and community that come with a college football team. College football is moving toward a dual-conference league of individual, self-absorbed football players with one goal: money. 

College football is becoming the NFL. And it’s terrifying.

Edited by Presley Tsang