College football is a major sport in our country and gener- ates mammoth amounts of revenue for the NCAA and its member schools. The lifeblood of these football programs are the recruits that stock their teams. These programs spend large amounts of time and money researching and recruiting potential players. Not long ago, the NCAA and colleges held most of the cards. High school recruits had to accept whatever schools were recruiting them, and once committed, be locked in for the rest of their college career. They also could not accept any financial assistance outside the scholarships the schools were offering. If they accepted a ham sandwich from someone outside the program, they could be charged with rules violations, jeopardizing their college career.

The best example was when Tiger Woods, while playing golf at Stanford, had to reimburse Arnold Palmer for his portion of a dinner Palmer purchased for him. In the past five years, those standards have been challenged, and the playing field for new recruits has been leveled. The first big change was the creation of the “Transfer Portal” in 2018. According to NBCSports Chicago, the portal was created to “better support the sustainability of college sports.” It might be better described as college free agency. It is a database the players and coaches have access to. This allows a student athlete the ability to look at different programs to move to if they are not comfortable with the one they’re in. The big positive of the Portal is that if a player does change schools, they can play immediately.

The days of losing a full season is a thing of the past. It has proved to be very popular with players who were not able to enter the school they wanted to in the first place, giving them a second chance. For high school recruits looking to move to the next level, they also have to be concerned with the financial aspect of playing college football. Thanks to the United States Supreme Court’s decision, NCAA v. Alston, players can now be paid for their name, likeness and image (NIL). Such financial arrangements allowed by this ruling may influence where a young athlete will play college football. According to U.S. News and World Report, Bryce Young, a Mater Dei High School graduate and quarterback for the University of Alabama, signed endorsement deals worth nearly $1 million in 2021. Even though these agreements are not allowed to be financed by the schools, the programs are actively working on agreements for the student athletes with outside sources of payment.

This is starting to become standard practice to draw recruits. This past spring, Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban, took a verbal shot at Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher about his use of NIL deals as a recruitment tool. Arch Manning, the highly coveted quarterback and nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning, is set to cash in on NIL when he joins the University of Texas at the beginning of the 2023 football season. Even though there isn’t any news about pending agreements being made, a player with Manning’s exposure and commitment to a school with deep pocket boosters could prove to be a gold mine for this young phenom. Many colleges and universities are working on NIL deals that benefit all the players on their teams, not just the stars. While the school itself is not paying money to the players, which is still against the rules, the programs are working out endorsement deals with outside sources.

According to ESPN, Georgia Tech worked out a deal with TiVo that the student athletes will promote their products on social media, and in return the players would receive a $404 gift card, a streaming device and silk TiVo themed pajamas. Also, Brigham Young University struck a deal that would result in walk-on players’ tuition being paid for. Many schools are reportedly hiring firms to handle many of the licensing opportunities. Once players do start receiving income for their services on the gridiron, the situation opens a whole new can of worms. According to Josh Moody of U.S. News and World Report, if a player does receive an NIL deal, they will need lawyers and accountants to navigate all the issues facing them as a result. Another concern recruits now have to consider is the mind-boggling realignment of conferences in college football. Future collegiate players may end up playing in a conference that has away games a five-hour flight away.

It would be difficult for family members to travel to away games. On the flipside, you could argue that the players gain study time on longer flights. In the summer of 2021, the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, both standard bearers for the Big 12 Conference for decades, announced that they were taking their “Red River Rivalry” to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Rumor has it that quite a bit of money was involved. The move will take place in 2024. This left the Big 12 scrambling to fill two giant pair of shoes these teams were leaving behind. Not to be outdone, the Big 10 announced that USC and UCLA will be leaving the Pac-12 Conference behind and joining the mostly mid-western conference. The earth moved at these announcements, figuratively. Indications are that both the SEC and Big 10 are not done swallowing up other “big time” football programs to create two mega conferences in search of the big buck TV contracts. There are many questions about what are the next dominoes to fall.Will Oregon and Washington follow the Southern California teams to the Big 10?

What will happen to programs like Clemson, Florida State and Miami? Are they looking for a mega conference to join? Will the University of Notre Dame finally give up its legendary independent status and finally join a conference, and if so, which one? With all this speculation, the one thing that needs to be remembered is: how will the student athlete be affected. The 2022 season for Inland Empire high school football is sizing up to be a great one. Perennial power Centennial High School in Corona, led by longtime head coach Matt Logan, is again ranked in the Top 10 nationally according to MaxPrep. The Huskies have five of their players being recruited by Division 1 schools. Other schools poised to have great years and move into the CIF playoffs include Murrieta Valley, Norco, Rancho Cucamonga and Rancho Verde in Moreno Valley.

Each of these schools has a history of being successful, with players moving onto the college level. Not to be left out is Aquinas High School in San Bernardino. Head coach Jordan Brusig has turned this small school into a football power. The Falcons won CIF last year only to lose in the State playoffs. They are on track to be the team to beat this year in their division. The days of playing for team pride may be waning. Now that money has matriculated down to the players, the passion of playing may be replaced with the business of playing.

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