Lane Kiffin Says NIL Money Is 'No. 1 Thing' Driving Recruits' College Decisions

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 25, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Lane Kiffin of the Mississippi Rebels arrives before the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on January 01, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin believes money is far more important than any other factor when it comes to recruiting during the age of name, image and likeness rights in college football.

Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated asked Kiffin how much money is factoring into recruiting and shared the coach's response:

"You take a 17-year-old who, a lot of them, don't come from money and family doesn't come from money … If any person tells you that their NIL is not the No. 1 thing … Take 100 of them and ask about the No. 1 thing that's going to make the decision … It's not the size of the stadium, not the head coach, not the campus or the conference, the No. 1 thing will be money.

"And how would you blame them? A professional player already has money, and they usually follow the money [in free agency]. So when you don't have it and are three or four years away from getting money in the NFL, you take what is guaranteed. How can you blame them when a lot of them never make it to the NFL? How do you not take it?"

Kiffin also stressed he believes players should be paid and that "they shouldn't be [paid] all equal. That's not what happens in the real world. Why does their best player get paid the same as their worst player? That's not real life."

He also suggested some type of salary cap may be the long-term answer, pointing to already existing similarities with professional sports.

"How are we not a professional sport?," he said. "What is the difference? [Players] are making money. They can opt into free agency. We're a professional sport, and they are professional players. Contracted employees without contracts."

He also posited star players using their individual power in the NIL era isn't far away:

"Why did Bryce Young not go into the portal? If you are advising Bryce Young, why do you not go into the portal and walk into Nick Saban's office and say, 'Hey, I want to be here, but I've got to protect myself so I'm going to go into the portal. And I want to come back as long as it's matched with what I get out there.' The kid would make 10 times what he would have made. How's that not going to happen all the time? It should. It will."

That he mentioned Young and Saban is notable because the Alabama head coach has been at the center of NIL-based headlines of late.

Saban told reporters: "A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn't buy one player. But I don't know if we're going to be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it."

That inspired a passionate response from Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, who said Saban's comments were "despicable" and "personal."

He also called the coaching legend a "narcissist" and suggested reporters should dig into Saban's past.          

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

JIMBO FISHER OFFFF THE TOP ROPE <a href="https://t.co/yVN6HobqkQ">pic.twitter.com/yVN6HobqkQ</a>

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey issued public reprimands for both coaches, and Saban apologized for singling out Texas A&M and Jackson State in his comments.

The NCAA released guidelines earlier this month that said booster-led collectives cannot be involved in recruiting even during the new era of college football. While the guidelines left open the possibility of retroactive punishments for schools, that doesn't seem particularly likely given the potential for antitrust lawsuits.