The floodgates are open in college sports. Rules are gone. Athletes can profit off their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). That means they can sign autographs for a fee. People can give them cars, houses, and briefcases stuffed full of cash. And there are probably many other things they can do that I don't know about. These are crazy times.
People worry that NIL will widen the gap between the big and small schools. The Alabamas and the Montana States, for example. They worry that NIL money will eliminate a small school's chances of competing with a big school. They think big schools have more money to buy better players.
These are valid concerns. Big schools have more money. They have more people willing to donate to help them win. More boosters are willing to write astronomical checks to teenagers. They "support" because they think money helps teams win. They think that more money brings in better players, and better players win more games. But is that happening?
This is where NIL is flawed. Money can't buy wins. Sure, money might get you a few more five-star recruits, but what does that matter? More money will attract the players that are looking for it. But maybe you don't want that type of player. Maybe that type of player is bad for your team. Maybe money causes more problems than it's worth.
NIL will widen the gap, but not the one people worry about. It will widen the gap between two types of players: those that love the game and those that don't. Players either play for the right or wrong reasons. Those that love the game would play for free. Money isn't their focus. If money was out of the equation, they'd still show up at the field at 6 AM. They're in it for the right reasons. And that's something money can't buy or teach.
Players that play for money are in it for the wrong reasons. They want cars, houses, and briefcases of cash. They're focused on the results. NIL attracts more of these types of players. Are those the ones you want on your team?
People can give you almost everything in life. They can hand you money, cars, houses, food, and cushy jobs. All in an attempt to make life easier. These things (and many more) can be handed to you on a silver platter. You really can have it all. Well, almost.
People can't give you one thing: a desire to work. A love of the process. All the money in the world can't buy internal motivation. Work ethic can't be bought with cars, clothes, or sacks of cash. No amount of money is enough to get people in the gym at 5 AM in the middle of the off-season. That takes something different. Money might motivate people for a while, but it won't last long. You need the right people for the job. Not resources. Resources are overrated.
The gap in college sports will widen. But not the gap people worry about. NIL will create a gap between the right and wrong players. You don't need to worry about resources; those don't matter. This isn't a race to pile up the most cash.
Resources are an excuse. People think you need money to win. So they focus on getting more of it. But they still lose. How? They have the wrong players. Money isn't the issue.
Great teams are full of players that love playing the game. To them, playing is the reward. They love practice. The off-season is their favorite time of year. No games. Just practice. Hard work is in their blood. Money doesn't distract them. The more of those players you have on your team, the better your chances of winning.
The players that care least about winning usually do most of it. These players are still out there. You just have to look harder to find them.
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