Ole Miss HC Lane Kiffin Talks NIL, Says Players Will 'Go Where They're Paid the Most'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 2, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Lane Kiffin of the Mississippi Rebels reacts against the Baylor Bears during the first half in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on January 01, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin isn't pulling punches when it comes to the NCAA's NIL rules.

He told reporters Tuesday that he believes allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness rights will ultimately lead to those players going to schools that can offer them the opportunity to make the most money, equating it to NFL free agency.

"In free agency in the NFL, players usually go to the most money," he said. "Every once in a while, they don't because they already have a bunch of money. Well, these kids are 17 and 18 years old. They're going to go where they're paid the most. I'm not complaining, it just is what it is."

Kiffin added that he worries about the college game becoming even more stratified between the programs that can offer players the most money through NIL opportunities and those who offer less.

"We don't have the same funding resources as some of these schools do for these NIL deals," he said. "It's basically dealing with different salary caps. Now we have a sport that has completely different salary caps and some of these schools have, whatever, five to 10 times more than everybody else in what they can pay the players. I know nobody uses those phrases, but that is what it is."

Professional sports, of course, has varying forms of salary caps. The NFL and NBA each operate under a soft cap system, while the NBA also has a luxury tax for teams that go over that soft cap (teams can go over the cap when re-signing their own players, for instance).

Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap, though it does have a competitive balance tax, which operates similarly to the NBA's luxury tax. And European soccer does not have a salary cap or luxury tax, though it does have financial fair play, which seeks to enforce that clubs balance their books and don't operate in debt.

The difference between those leagues and college football, however, is that the players are directly paid by their teams or clubs. In college football, however, players are only permitted to make money off their name, image or likeness rights.

That means that schools that can provide the best avenue to potential endorsement deals will have a stronger recruiting pitch than schools that don't. But those same schools likely have a larger operating budget, better facilities, etc. that they will highlight in their recruiting pitches before players can earn NIL money.

And while college players weren't making any money for most of the NCAA's history, college coaches have been pulling in multi-million dollar salaries. How many of those same coaches eschewed a big payday to stay at a smaller school?

"Somehow they're going to, I bet, try to control NIL because now you've got these salary caps at places, giving players millions of dollars before they ever play, and other places not being able to do that," Kiffin said. "What would the NFL look like if there were a couple of teams in the NFL where their salary cap was 10 times more than everybody else's salary cap? That's where we're headed, so they're going to have to do something."

Until there is a salary cap for college coaches and administrators, however, arguing that there should be one for NIL earnings for college players may come across as being a bit disingenuous.