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NIL at the ACC Kickoff: What do the Players and Coaches Think?

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The new rules regarding NIL have been the talk of the college sports landscape as of late. Myself and John Eads were down at the ACC Kickoff hearing from players and coaches over the course of two days. They answered questions about their teams, their offseasons, their progression, and plenty on the changes NIL brings to college football. Here are some of the answers that stuck out:

Mack Brown – HC, UNC:

On UNC launching group licensing: “Bubba [Cunningham] and his team have been working on this for two years. We had a discussion with our team the spring before COVID hit about what this meant and where it was going. Bubba asked if there were any questions at the end of the discussion and Sam Howell stood up and said, ‘I don’t want this to be about the quarterback, I don’t want it to be disruptive in the locker room.’ That’s one of the reasons Bubba and his team are working so hard on group licensing, and they’re one of the first to do it. That means the backup right guard is going to have a chance to be involved with opportunities that he wouldn’t be if it’s three players on your team that are. I was not in favor of taking away amateurism and moving forward with NIL. Then Sally [Brown] told me something that really makes sense: ‘The regular student, if a musician gets to use talent to make money so why shouldn’t a student-athlete get to do the same thing?’ So I got it, and now we’ve got to all figure out those guidelines and what it means, and group licensing helps your whole team. Sam [Howell] will be ok, some of the other players will be ok with their opportunities, but what Bubba’s trying to do, what I want us to do, is be able to help that whole team. Now, are we making guys mature faster than normal? Yeah, we’re talking about federal tax and state tax and your agent and the percentage of money that your agent is going to take away from what you get and the legal part of this, so they’re having to grow up a lot faster than before, which may be a good thing in the long run.”

Dabo Swinney – HC, Clemson:

“I’ve never been apprehensive about NIL. That’s not the story. People hear what they want to hear, they write want they want to write, and people believe what they want to believe. My comments were that I’m against the professionalization of college athletics, always have been always will be. I’m for education, graduating, and equipping young people through the game of football for life. That’s what it’s always been about for me, that’s what it’s always going to be about. This has not changed the collegiate model, this just is common sense…I worked all through college, there wasn’t a day I didn’t work on my time…for our kids not to have the opportunity to work on their time? I’ve never agreed with that. That’s a common-sense thing to me.”

Pat Narduzzi – HC, Pittsburgh:

“It’s a great opportunity for our kids….The opportunities the kids are getting allow some young guys to look up at a Kenny Pickett or a Deslin Alexandre and say, ‘Wow I want to be like him, look what he got. How do I get where Kenny is?’ Everybody should want to be in Kenny’s shoes, and it’s not a given, he’s earned what he’s got. When Kenny decided to come back he didn’t have [NIL] in mind, but he’s able to take part in it and he’s really going to build him for the future and it’s going to build our kids for the future, so I think it’s a great opportunity for our young men to build their image.”

D’eriq King – QB, Miami: 

“The whole NIL thing is really good for college football. My thing was, ‘work with good companies.’ You don’t have to work with every company, I wanted to work with companies that aligned with my core values…my main goal is to help as many teammates as I can, to earn whatever they can earn, it’s not all about me.”

On collaboration with McKenzie Milton: “I’ve known McKenzie for 6-7 years now, back when he was in high school and when he was at UCF and I was at Houston. Obviously, you know Florida State is our rival but business is business. We both thought it was a good idea to partner up with Dreamfield [Sports] and co-found the company. It’s really to help as many guys as we can, that whole platform is to help everybody else make a lot of money. 

McKenzie Milton – QB, FSU:

On collaboration with D’eriq King: “D’eriq and I, we’re older heads in this college football game. Being a part of Dreamfield [Sports] has really given us the opportunity to think about life after football, and at the same time help educate these college athletes on filing taxes, setting their market rate for what they think their value is, and getting in contact with local businesses whether its an autograph signing, to get connected to fans, or to get some free food. The little things that we weren’t able to capitalize on before….I’m excited to see what these college athletes do with it, whether it’s making podcasts, YouTube videos, YouTube channels, their own merchandise, whatever it is, it’s something pretty cool.”

D.J. Uiagalelei – QB, Clemson:

On his new deal with Bojangles: “Bojangles is definitely a recent discovery, in California, we don’t have Bojangles. I remember one thing coming down here to the south, one thing I definitely learned was that Jesus is number 1 here, then it goes football, then Bojangles, people love Bojangles down here….My approach with the NIL is that I want to be a student-athlete, so school comes first, I want to graduate, I want to be a football player second, and I want to make sure all my focus is in those two, and then in my off time I can worry about my NIL and branding and stuff like that.”

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