Lincoln Riley voices displeasure with NIL's influence on recruiting, says they should 'stay separate'
Lincoln Riley came out swinging on Saturday against an open-range Name, Image, and Likeness environment that he feels has allowed NIL deals to “seep” into the recruiting space and have “completely” changed the way coaches have to recruit.
Riley, speaking with reporters via Zoom after USC spring practice, was asked how he thought a burgeoning NIL scene has impacted recruiting and said there’s no doubt it has completely changed the game. Here’s the full quote:
“It (NIL) has completely changed it (recruiting),” he said. “I mean, it doesn’t even resemble what we used to do before NIL. In every sense of the word it’s different. The reality is it’s made what’s gone on at certain places for a long time, it’s kind of just put it out in the open. So, maybe some positives there. I’m a fan of guys being able to capitalize off their NIL. There was no doubt it was going to seep into recruiting at some point.
“I think anybody that cares about college football is not real pleased with that because that wasn’t the intention. We all get that. A lot of people voiced concerns when NIL came up that there had to be a plan for that, and instead we instituted NIL without any plan for that, so that’s why we’re at where we’re at. I’m sure at some point there’s going to be a market correction, if you will, with recruiting. Hopefully there will be because in a perfect world they stay separate. High school kid, his family, their state, whatever, they have an NIL opportunity. That’s great. College athletes, if they have an NIL opportunity, that’s great. We want them to do super well. It shouldn’t cross over. But, unfortunately, with the way the rules are set up, it has crossed over and it’s crossing over a lot right now and it’s totally changed recruiting.”
Riley was then asked about the purely hypothetical chance a high school recruit could garner a seven-figure NIL deal before stepping foot on a college campus and said that specific kind of deal is “not good for the game.”
“College football is such a great thing and that’s certainly not what anybody’s after,” he continued. “So, it is what it is. It was going to happen, and honestly, probably good that something outrageous happened as soon as it did because I think it shines a pretty bright light on (the fact) we’ve got something here we need to take a look at. I think we’ve got enough people out there where we can figure out a better, smoother path that can separate the two.
“Again, fully supportive of guys being able to make money off their Name, Image, and Likeness. Fully supportive of that, no matter where they’re at, but it should not be a part of recruiting. They out to know what opportunities are there that the current players are getting, sure, absolutely. You want to know that. But these promises that are made when guys are in high school, man, it’s just not good for the game. So, hopefully we can find some ways to address it and keep the two separate.”
Last June, hours before state laws in places like Texas and Florida opened the market for student-athletes to begin profiting off their name, image, and likeness, the NCAA approved changes to restrictions on student-athletes earning money for things regular students could already earn money on.
The NCAA tried for months to put broad NIL guardrails in place but failed to do so, instead saying at the 11th hour “we’ll allow this thing to happen,” and then punting its ball into the court of the United States Congress for help.
In the time since, NIL opportunities have influenced the movement of players both at the high school ranks flowing into college and from school to school once at the college level. In the Pac-12, schools like UCLA and Arizona State have seen key football players leave, in part, (and reportedly) for schools with bigger pots to dole out to student-athletes.
Around the country, NIL collectives are popping up in the marketplace. Some facilitate above-board deals between student-athletes and local businesses. Some are undoubtedly ways for donors to funnel money to players for next to nothing at all. That’ll happen in a loosely-defined world.
Riley, though he stands to benefit from such a world, doesn’t seem to like it.