However, while Pittman was apparently the man of the hour despite being sandwiched in a primetime slot on opening night between Alabama's Nick Saban and Georgia's Kirby Smart, it was a comment made by Saban during a question and answer session that set the internet on fire.
While discussing the impact of NIL, Saban reportedly said that a request was made on behalf of a cornerback recruit for $800,000 and that a player from his team wanted $500,000 and admittance into Alabama's law school.
The two players in question were supposedly told they should find somewhere else to play. Considering Saban's open disdain for how NIL has evolved, it probably wasn't the wisest of moves by the athletes involved.
Whether this topic was part of the discussion taking placing during the now famous photo of Saban and Pittman talking in the ballroom of the Embassy hotel where the convention was taking place is a question for Pittman during his winter press conference.
One thing coaches reported Saban saying makes perfect sense. He is apparently strongly against players receiving money before they even take the field.
This is where Saban is right and probably has a growing set of allies within the University of Arkansas athletics program. Overenthusiastic boosters at universities across the country get so excited about trying to lure a kid with a bunch of stars beside his or her name that they pledge a pile of money for an unproven commodity.
The value of an athlete is based on what is done on the field or court while representing the brand. If a player can't get in the game, then it's like paying top dollar for an 80-foot tall billboard hidden behind a thicket of 100-foot trees.
The current system allows for guys who are all hype and no bite to come in, rack up a ton of money, and contribute next to nothing.
The problem of a lot of money for no return has a few guard rails in football and baseball because the amount of time required to be in college forces players to prove themselves.
However, investing NIL money into basketball is the biggest risk of all. If someone is foolhardy enough to hand an 18-year-old a massive check up front without proper requirements written into the agreement that would contractually require portions of that money be paid back for missed appearances and inability to represent the entity's brand by being on the court, the young man could simply pocket the money and never step on the court for that university.
Just show up long enough for the checks to clear, announce a reason to no longer be with the team such as an intention to transfer, and dance off to the NBA draft with a hefty bank account that wouldn't have been filled had it been a few seasons before when NIL wasn't a thing.
They NBA isn't going to hold it against them. They know how to write their contracts correctly.
If anything, they might be impressed that a young man right out of high school outsmarted grown adults who should have known better.
Eventually companies and collectives will become as soured as Saban at the idea of throwing money at an unproven commodity. NIL contracts will be written better so performance comes before payment and accountability is required.
Knowing that the state of Arkansas doesn't have as much money to play around with and isn't typically as tolerable of paychecks that aren't earned, it's likely that it becomes a proving ground for standardizing NIL deals based primarily on incentives before many other states.
So many appearances or spots trigger a certain amount of money. Starting a certain amount of games or playing so many minutes triggers more money.
Representing the brand as an All-SEC player or an All-American triggers additional funds, as does a loyalty bonus. There could even be character bonuses for staying out of trouble, avoiding certain penalties and keeping things positive on social media.
All win-win concepts that help the company's brand, the athlete's brand and the team for which he or she plays.
The problem with NIL for coaches like Saban and Pittman doesn't appear to be the money. They just want to see the money be earned and not get in the way of the product on the field.
No coach wants to have a guy on the sideline for two years who can't get off the bench for various reasons making a ton of money while the guys who are there killing themselves every day and actually playing in the games come away with far less.
That gets under the skin of most coaches and creates problems in the locker room.
They definitely don't take kindly to players having their people contact the coach and essentially try to extort them.
It's one thing to come to a coach and say "Hey, my mom's having a hard time paying rent," or "I'm having a hard time keeping tires on my vehicle, do you know someone who might can point me to a business that could use my promotional services so I can take care of that?"
It's a much different matter to tell a coach he'd better come up with "X" amount of dollars or you're going to a rival.
There's change that needs to happen in this system.
That starts with placing value on what the athlete brings to the company or group, not whether his or her foot physically steps onto a campus.
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