NIL casts cloud over college football’s early signing period

cfb early signing period
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The early signing period for college football opened and in many ways it looked the same as usual.

There were surprising last-minute flips by blue-chip recruits, pick-a-hat commitment ceremonies held at high schools across the country and Alabama signing the nation’s top-rated class.

Hanging over it all, though, was the impossible to quantify but hard to ignore influence of NIL money impacting players’ decisions.

This was second signing class since the NCAA lifted a ban on college athletes being able to earn money for the use of their names, images and likenesses. There still there are no clearly defined, detailed and uniform rules regulating how third parties can pay athletes.

“I think there’s major concerns with what’s going on in college football,” said Penn State coach James Franklin, who emphasized he supports athletes being able to cash in on NIL opportunities. “Right now, there’s really no guardrails. There’s not a whole lot of guidance, and there’s not a whole of governance.”

Penn State has a recruiting class ranked in the top 15 in the country, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings.

It is still against NCAA rules to use NIL payments as a recruiting inducement or offer pay-for-play deals. But with money and NIL deals flowing to athletes through booster-funded collectives, it seems nearly impossible for the NCAA to enforce those rules.

“We all want something if we can get it” said new Nebraska coach Matt Rhule, who returned to the college game after three years in the NFL. “You can see (NIL is) being misused and mishandled in a lot of places.”

While coaches complain about bad actors, nobody names names and NIL is now part of the recruiting conversation, whether coaches like it or not.

“The reality is this day and age you have to make decisions on how you’re going to handle this,” Southern California coach Lincoln Riley said.

Riley said he believed USC lost recruits to other schools because of NIL deals, but he added that “everybody did.”

Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said of NIL deals: “If that’s the only reason they want to come to Notre Dame, we’re not going to be the right place for them.”

The Fighting Irish were on the short end of two surprising flips pulled off by Oregon.

The Ducks received commitments from five-star defensive back Peyton Bowen of Texas and four-star running back Jayden Limar from Washington. Both had been committed verbally – and very much nonbinding – to Notre Dame.

Oregon coach Dan Lanning and his staff also flipped four-star defensive back Daylen Austin from an LSU pledge and four-star quarterback Austin Novosad from a Baylor commitment.

“I think it’s great to be in a place where you can be innovative and ahead of the curve, but I think anybody that really knows college football right now knows there’s a lot more to recruiting than NIL,” Lanning said. “Nobody picks the place just because of those factors … it goes back to relationships.”

Oregon also signed five-star Matayo Uiagalelei, who picked the Ducks over Ohio State and Southern California. The California linebacker is the brother of former Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.

The Ducks secured the top-rated class in the Pac-12 – and top 10 in the nation – despite losing out on five-star quarterback Dante Moore earlier in the week. Moore, from Michigan, was a late flip to UCLA.

Not every coach is leaning into NIL.

“We built this program on NIL. We really did,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s probably different than what you’re thinking, though. We built this program on God’s name, image and likeness.”


NIL might be changing recruiting, but the leaderboard of best classes looks familiar.

The Crimson Tide landed two five-star defensive linemen, Qua Russaw and James Smith, from the same Montgomery high school to lock up a class that will challenge the 2022 Texas A&M signing class for the highest score ever generated by the 247 composite.

Alabama also pulled off a late flip, getting five-star offensive lineman Kadyn Proctor from Iowa to renege on a longtime commitment to the Hawkeyes.

At a signing ceremony at his high school, Proctor told reporters he felt as if he was settling with Iowa and that NIL deals were not the deciding factor.

“It’s not about the money because if people knew about the money situation, they wouldn’t be talking about it,” Proctor said, according to the Des Moines Register. “But I wanted to go play football at a prestigious school. (There’s) a lot of competition down there and ultimately it’s going to make me better.”

There is more recruiting left to be done. What used to be the traditional signing day during the first week of February has now become secondary, with a few blue-chippers still on the board and the majority of scholarships already filled.

But Alabama can be declared the recruiting champions for the 10th time in the last 13 years.


Mario Cristobal‘s first season as Miami’s coach was a 5-7 dud, filled with ugly losses.

That had no effect on the Hurricanes’ first signing class with Cristobal having had a full year to recruit. If this is a glimpse of what’s to come, the U. might be back soon.

Miami’s class slides in behind Alabama and Georgia in the top five. It is also right there with Texas, which landed quarterback and No. 1 overall recruit Arch Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning.

Cristobal, the former Miami offensive linemen, signed two five-star offensive tackles in Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola.

“Miami used to dominate the (NFL) draft. Dominate,” Cristobal said. “Signing days result in better draft days.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.