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BYU’s Kalani Sitake Discusses Current State Of NIL In College Football

May 3, 2022, 11:59 PM | Updated: May 4, 2022, 1:21 pm
Kalani Sitake, NIL, BYU Football, Built Bar...
BYU football coach Kalani Sitake discusses Built Brands' name, image and likeness agreement with BYU during a press conference at the BYU Student Athlete Building in Provo on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – The Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals have kicked into overdrive in college football. It feels like a far different NIL landscape than the one BYU led last August.

When the NCAA lifted NIL restrictions on July 1, 2021, many around the sport believed it would consist of the local car dealerships giving star athletes money and maybe a free ride. We were so naive, weren’t we?

BYU got the creative juices flowing in the NIL world, lining up Built Brands to ink individual contracts with the walk-ons in their program. While also lining up individual deals for the scholarship athletes.

Welcome to the world of NIL Collectives

That seemed cutting edge in the NIL space just nine months ago. As we’ve seen this off-season, things move quickly in college athletics. Now the trend these days is “NIL Collectives.” Wealthy boosters put together millions of dollars to get the top high school athletes or transfer portal prospects to their schools.

Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison has brought the NIL collectives to the national spotlight. Last season, Addison was the nation’s top wide receiver winning the Biletnikoff Award. Next, he might be pulling down a $3 million salary.

Before entering the portal officially on Tuesday, national reporters had intel that Addison was moving to USC for millions. Tampering? Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi accused USC coach Lincoln Riley of doing so.

Good luck getting the NCAA taking down a blueblood. Even though they are reacting as usual by saying they are coming for the NIL collectives.

Regardless, these million-dollar deals for athletes have made prominent voices in college football, voicing their concerns. One in particular is former Heisman Trophy winner and ESPN analyst Desmond Howard.

“I’m just not a fan of the trajectory of college football right now. I do not like where it is headed,” said Howard during ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage on April 30. “Now I’ve been pounding the table for guys to get NIL money because I think they deserve it. You need to get paid for your name, image and likeness. There’s no doubt about it. But when you place it in our lap with no real rules and regulations and say, ‘here, have at it,’ it becomes the wild, wild west. So it’s a double-edged sword.”

Will some form of amateurism remain?

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has always maintained that he wants an element of amateurism in college football. Even amid this unique era of NIL and the Transfer Portal.

Sitake was on SiriusXM’s Big 12 Today with hosts Kris Budden and Gabe Ikard. Budden, a current ESPN sideline reporter, asked Sitake, “Do you have concerns about where college football is heading?”

Kalani Sitake on NIL and where CFB is heading

Sitake replied, ”I know how we (BYU) are going to do deal with NIL and how we’re dealing with whatever comes up for the transfer portal, or whatever it is, it’s going to be in line with what the vision of our school is and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That’s what we’re going to be focused on.

”But if you ask me personally what my thoughts are on football and college football, I think there has to be a level of amateurism to it. I don’t know if money is the answer to everything. I don’t know if a young 18-19-year-old is supposed to have that much money in their bank account, but maybe there’s a way that they can put it into an investment fund for them in the future.

”But I don’t know if a first date as a college student should be going to some big ‘ol steakhouse like Ruth’s Chris, nothing wrong with that, but that’s great, but what do you do for the second date? Go to the Bahamas or something? Like I don’t know what to tell you. For a college student, sometimes just learn how to budget and learn to be on a budget and have a connection and hang out with your buddies and just have that connection that doesn’t just rely on money.

”I believe that college football players shouldn’t have any student debt. Which is why I really like the thought that Built came in and relieved all of our walk-ons from having to pay tuition. We’re seeing things that are trying to make NIL work for the team, for the whole group. And then if we can do that, I think if someone makes a little bit more money than the others because of their name, image and likeness, that’s great. But it’s a team sport. We’ve got to be focused on taking care of the least of our brethren, and then when we do that, I think that makes you a better team and makes you a better teammate.

“So I like the camaraderie and the connection, the culture that we have in our program right now. And I think it’s important that we as coaches and as administrators do what we can to make sure that we govern it as much as we can and that we give our players the experience and not just throw a bunch of money at them.”

What’s next?

Sitake’s opinions are not uncommon among college coaches. For example, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has consistently expressed concerns with NIL, even saying “it’s not sustainable.”

The same was said by the sport’s greatest coach in Alabama headman Nick Saban. Saban last month forecasted to the Associated Press what we’re now potentially seeing, an environment where teams are buying players.

Bob Dylan’s words “the times they are a-changin'” have never rung truer for college football than they do now. Welcome to the sport’s new normal.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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