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Golden: Football coaches are happy about NIL now, but will it extend through the season?

While NIL laws allow players to profit, new challenges emerge

Texas running back Bijan Robinson, speaking Thursday at Big 12 media days in Arlington, is already taking advantage of the new NIL laws, like many other high-profile college athletes.
  • With players profiting off name, image and likeness, they have added responsibilities.
  • College football coaches will have to navigate this new development while maintaining locker-room harmony.
  • Texas coach Steve Sarkisian: “What they do in their down time as it pertains to NIL, that’s up to them. But our 20 hours are going to be our 20 hours and we’ll be committed to our 20 hours because I do believe we have a team-first mentality amongst our players.”

Will the first college football coach with a selfish concern about how this NIL business will affect his schedule please stand up?

We’re still waiting.

The early NIL reviews have been mostly positive as players are busy making deals, cashing checks and setting up meetings with potential future clients. Congrats to those who have successfully tapped into the name, image and likeness sweepstakes, but most of them are playing for some of the most demanding people on earth.

Most football coaches will be, in a word, peeved if their precious schedules are disrupted by even the most minute of distractions.

Imagine Nick Saban’s reaction if he hears that his star quarterback drove four hours to his hometown after practice to shoot a commercial for the local auto parts store two days before the Auburn game. That depth chart would undergo a last-minute adjustment.

No coach runs a tighter ship than Saint Nick, and while the majority of reactions from coaches have been along the lines of “good for the players as long as it’s on their own time,” the real question will come down what's considered the player’s time and what’s considered the coach’s time.

More:‘It's a tsunami’: Texas coaches, administrators look for NIL clarity amid waves of change

“My schedule will not change and our players’ schedule will not change as it pertains to football,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday at Big 12 media days. “What they do in their down time as it pertains to NIL, that’s up to them. But our 20 hours are going to be our 20 hours, and we’ll be committed to our 20 hours because I do believe we have a team-first mentality amongst our players.”

About those 20 hours. On the surface, it’s the time that coaches spend with their players in practice, games, meetings and the training room, but it would be beyond silly to assume that football begins and ends there. These players take the game home with them. 

The ones who dream of the NFL understand that 20 hours a week won’t cut it. That means putting in extra time in the weight room, studying the DVDs that the position coaches give them to take home and staying academically eligible to continue playing.

More:A matter of trust: Cottage industry springs to life for NIL issues, but whom does it serve?

It’s a full-time job. Now that we’re adding an opportunity for them to earn some money on the side, time management becomes even more crucial along with the responsibilities that come with joining the business sector.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian says the new NIL laws will not change his or his players' schedules. Players are now allowed to profit off their celebrity, and time management could be an issue if deals are being made during the season.

What is the point of NIL? Answer: To get paid

Texas running back Bijan Robinson acknowledged there will be added responsibilities on players, especially the ones like him who have higher profiles in uniform and on social media. He recently pocketed $100 for his first Cameo assignment, which ironically came at the request of an Oklahoma fan who was hoping to hear the Heisman Trophy candidate sing "Boomer Sooner."

Didn’t happen, of course. But Robinson still got paid. That’s the point of this whole thing.

More:Golden: Post-Brewer Baylor is in the market for a starting quarterback

As far as the game is concerned, Robinson was a newcomer on last season’s squad that managed to finish 7-3 with an Alamo Bowl win despite the challenges of the pandemic and a locker room that was split over "The Eyes of Texas" controversy while America raged over the debate surrounding social injustice. Coach Tom Herman lost his job in part because of his inability to manage football with the other issues on his roster.

Sarkisian just got here and is inheriting a team that nearly came apart at the seams due to issues that stretched outside the walls of Royal-Memorial Stadium. Robinson and his teammates are well aware of what can happen when off-the-field activities take on a life of their own and overshadow the goals of Saturday afternoons.

“Last year we kind of had a lot of distractions from COVID to social justice; so many different things were going on that were taking our minds off football,” Robinson said. “So we would be so individual and be so separated in our team. I feel it hurt us in a lot of situations during the season. But I know this year we are very player-led, and I feel like the player-led teams go to the championship games.”

Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said NIL deals could get tricky inside college football locker rooms. “Some guys will get more than others. That’s life, and we all understand that," he said at Big 12 media days. "I think the biggest thing is that our leaders and our players handle that within the locker room in their support of each other.“

What added responsibilities, restrictions will NIL bring about?

While this is still new for college athletes, the safe window when it comes to making deals seems to be the first half of the year, after the New Year’s Six bowls and not including that month of spring football.

More:What's in a name: Thanks to NCAA changes, Texas athletes are about to find out

What remains to be seen is whether coaches will place an NIL deadline on their players to make deals before it becomes all football, all the time. And if it happens, will those deadlines be made public?

Texas Tech's Matt Wells is an outspoken supporter of players getting compensated and pointed to education in this new way of life as a key to ultimate success, adding that players must practice responsible behavior in the areas of business and their own reputations.

“They also have a responsibility to the Double T, to Texas Tech and to that locker room, because it is based on that brand and their name and their reputation,” Wells said.

“Some guys will get more than others. That’s life, and we all understand that. I think the biggest thing is that our leaders and our players handle that within the locker room in their support of each other.“

Not every school will have a booster like Dan Lambert, a Miami Hurricanes fan whose American Top Team MMA business is paying UM players $6,000 each this fall. Those greenbacks will make for a harmonious locker room, especially if the Canes win as expected.

Only the best-led programs will successfully navigate what will go down as one of the biggest changes in the history of the game. When money is involved, adjustments must be made: in the areas of time management and business choices.

The coaches will face a new challenge, especially on most teams when only a select few are getting paid.