top of page

When More Is Less; NCAA Loses Again, NIL Is Unleashed; One Idea for the Future of College Football

Never underestimate the ability of NCAA brass and college conference commissioners to do something stupid.

Two cases in point.

The NCAA is considering expanding March Madness. We're at 68 teams now, with playin games for the bottom eight, and things are working just fine. In fact, you might say the NCAA basketball tournament is the only thing the beleaguered organization is doing well.

So why expand?

Two reasons: more access and more money. The access argument doesn't hold water. Every team in the country has access to the tourney if they win their conference championship, or if they play well enough to gain an at-large berth. 

The money argument is also ludicrous. March Madness nets just shy of a billion dollars right now, and I'm sure the next contract will increase substantially.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The second stupid idea relates to the new 12-team College Football Playoff. It hasn't even started yet, but the money-hungry geniuses who run the conferences are considering expanding it to 14 or 16.

Again, the goals are access and money. The Big Two--SEC and Big Ten--want more guaranteed spots in the playoff, as many as four per conference according to some reports. Fact is, those conferences are likely to get three teams in every year. Enough is enough.

As for the money, it seems there is no end to the greed. The deal the CFP is close to signing with ESPN is for $1.3 billion per year. At best, adding a couple of teams might increase that amount by $100,00 or so, which would be split among conferences. 

But ESPN is reportedly getting tired of waiting for the final details and may pull the offer entirely.

I think we need to leave well enough alone. Everyone is excited about going from four teams to 12. Let's give the new format a few years before we even think about changing it.

NCAA Losses Mount: Stop me if you've heard this before, but the NCAA has suffered another legal loss. And this one will have major ramifications in the new money-driven world of NIL and the transfer portal.

On Friday a federal judge in Tennessee granted a temporary injunction blocking the NCAA from enforcing any rules related to recruits signing NIL deals or accepting money as an inducement to play for a particular school. 

Judge Clifton Corker ruled that "In an apparent attempt to prohibit these inducements, the NCAA...likely violates federal antitrust laws and harms student athletes."

The order, which is applicable to athletes in all states and effective immediately, has dealt a death blow to the NCAA's attempts to stop pay for play. 

We now have no NIL rules in place relative to recruiting or transferring. Collectives and donors--and the schools they represent--have been unleashed to make whatever deal they want to entice a high school recruit or transfer. 

This was happening before the ruling, of course. But now schools, boosters, and athletes can do it without fear of punishment. (As part of his ruling, Judge Corker also banned NCAA's Rule of Restitution, meaning that if his decision is reversed on appeal, which is very unlikely, no one can be punished for relying on this order).

All this means there will be dramatic increases in NIL deals offered to high school prospects and players in the transfer portal to entice them to sign with a particular school.

It wasn't that long ago that athletes could lose their eligibility for letting someone buy them a cheeseburger or a bagel with cream cheese. Now every time we turn on a game we see Caleb Williams in a Dr. Pepper commercial or Caitlin Clark hawking State Farm.

The charade of amateurism has been blown to smithereens. These athletes are professionals working full time jobs and being recruited just like any top software engineer or C-suite administrator.

The Future: Let's end the hypocrisy. Make college football players employees, pay them a salary, and have them sign contracts. Put the top teams--let's say between 32 and 48--in a premier style league where there's no phony "student-athlete" hyperbole. Pay the coaches $10M, have unlimited recruiting budgets, and build all the fancy facilities you want. Have teams sponsored by corporations that license the school name. Give players the option to attend classes, if they want, as an employee benefit.

The remaining schools, still integrated into their universities, can organize leagues geographically or by academic status, have players actually attend class, and keep salaries, recruiting budgets and facility demands under control.

It's sad, but it's the only way to make some sense out of this mess.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

bottom of page