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NIL or Bust: Three Coaches Slow to Adapt

NIL or Bust: Three Coaches Slow to Adapt

NIL or Bust. College football is evolving, and Brian Kelly, Hugh Freeze, and Spencer Danielson‘s failure to adapt has them falling behind. Forget “rah-rah” speeches and promises of future glory. Today’s recruits are businessmen with talent to sell. NIL deals are the new signing bonus and programs that don’t adapt risk getting left behind.

We see coaches clinging to the “develop our guys” mantra, which ignores reality. Top programs strategically leverage NIL to lure top talent, creating a win-win situation: top recruits get paid, and teams get a competitive edge. Schools with robust NIL collectives have a golden opportunity, but some coaches seem hesitant to use this to their advantage. It’s time to wake up and smell the NIL money, or some programs and coaches will be watching championships from the sidelines.

NIL or Bust: Three Coaches Slow to Adapt

Brian Kelly – LSU Tigers

Kelly made plenty of headlines (excuses) this week when asked why LSU hadn’t leveraged the transfer portal to bring in some help on defense.

“It’s hasn’t fared very well quite frankly because we are selling something a little bit differently. We want to recruit. We want to engage. Build relationships, develop, and have success.  We are not in the market of buying players.”

Did someone forget to tell Kelly it’s 2024, not 1994? Kelly’s comments raise serious concerns. While emphasizing player development is a nice sound bite, his resistance to utilizing NIL effectively borders on naiveté. And building relationships? This is the same guy who left his players at Notre Dame high and dry in the middle of a CFB Playoff run for more dollars in Baton Rouge.

LSU fans have high expectations, and let’s be honest, the Tiger defense had a lot to be desired in 2023. Look no further than the Ole Miss game last year. LSU allowed 706 yards of total offense in a 55-49 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford. By the way, Lane Kiffin and the Rebels have no problem with NIL and the Transfer Portal. More on that later. Those sorts of numbers are unacceptable in Baton Rouge. Kelly can ill afford to have a defense that is ranked in the bottom 10 defensively in the country in 2024 if he expects to stick around with his new family.

Hugh Freeze – Auburn Tigers

Freeze’s response (excuse) to why Auburn didn’t get a new quarterback in an interview with (Greg) McElroy and (Cole) Cubelic in the Morning on WJOX is enough to make Auburn fans cringe.

“The options that you’re presented with: develop Payton, develop Holden, develop Hank, develop Walker or go spend a million dollars on this guy, I just couldn’t bring myself to doing that, because I wanted to put all the pieces together.”

While Freeze’s approach to “coach up who we have in our room is commendable,” the Tigers needed an injection of talent under center. Auburn was downright awful last year on offense. The Tigers ranked 113th nationally in passing yards per game and had a dismal 39% third-down conversion rate. If fans and the Auburn administration wanted those types of numbers, they could have kept Bryan Harsin another year. It’s not like there weren’t plenty of good quarterback options available in December. Here are five names that Freeze should have at least considered.

Spencer Danielson – Boise State

For our last quote, we head out to the blue turf of Boise State. Danielson, the new Bronco head coach,  stuck his foot in his mouth in a radio interview with Bosie State beat writers Ron Counts and Adam Engle.

“If you’re looking for the easy way and you’re looking for a handout, don’t come to Boise State.”

Danielson and Kelly may need a similar pep talk and want to pump the brakes on the “NIL is a handout” narrative. We can all agree it might be more challenging to attract top recruits with NIL deals at Boise State compared to the Big Ten or SEC powerhouses, but welcome to the new world of college football,

More importantly, NIL isn’t a handout – it’s a chance for athletes to capitalize on their talent and hard work through endorsements and sponsorships. Top recruits are savvy; they understand this and expect that opportunity alongside development. Telling them Boise State isn’t the place for an NIL payday reeks of being out of touch. Danielson tried to clarify his comments but may have stuck his other foot in his mouth after the interview.

“But for us, when we recruit young men, it is not about, if you come here, this is what we’re going to be able to do for you. This is how we’re going to develop you. We’re a developmental program. What I was talking about earlier today, all of the freshmen that come in here are not promised anything. They’re promised a chance to compete.”

Evolving and Adapting in The Sip’

College football is evolving, and coaches who cling to outdated tactics are in for a rude awakening. Look at Kiffin down in Oxford. Two years ago, he challenged The Grove Collective to do more to get him to stay in Oxford and not leave for Auburn. The collective is now a powerhouse NIL group and has enabled Kiffin and his staff to strategically use the transfer portal to build Ole Miss into a preseason Top 10 team heading into 2024. The Grove Collective and Ole Miss had an event this week that highlighted how Kiffin is playing chess while the other three coaches mentioned above are struggling to play checkers.

This is the new blueprint. Leverage NIL for an edge, embrace the transfer portal for flexibility, and watch your program rise. The expanded playoffs offer more opportunities than ever, but only for the programs that adapt. It’s time to wake up and smell the NIL money or get ready to watch the party from the bleachers.

NIL or Bust: Three Coaches Slow to Adapt
Photo Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

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