Kirby Smart, other coaches must accept NIL is here to stay

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By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer

Dear Kirby Smart, 

What gives?

Last week, you, the head ball coach at the University of Georgia, left SEC Media Days, stepped on a private plane and flew to San Antonio to visit with members of perhaps the most powerful prep school consortium in the entire country: the Texas High School Football Association.

It’s not the kind of group a Power 5 coach can afford to neglect, even one who happens to be the head coach of the defending national champion Bulldogs. You know as much, and you made no bones about why when it was your turn to speak before one of the most important constituencies in the sport.

Georgia makes Kirby Smart the highest-paid coach in college football

Georgia makes Kirby Smart the highest-paid coach in college football

RJ Young reacts to Kirby Smart becoming the highest paid coach in college football and the highest-paid employee at a public university. Young believes the timing of this announcement is interesting given Smart’s recent comments about NIL.

“I said, ‘Because it’s the state of Texas, and we want to be able to go recruit their players, and I don’t care what it costs to fly a plane there and back, we’re going,'” Smart told The Athletic. “So thank God I won a national championship. They didn’t bark on my $35,000 expenditure this morning, to shoot over here and shoot back.”

So, $35K for a down and back?

Well, if that’s the price of doing business then you can understand how some folks have begun to look around and wonder just how much of that cash should go directly into the hands of the players themselves?

Like it or not name, image and likeness policies have led to some players finally cashing in on their notoriety as players. 

But, to you, Kirby, it’s already too much, too quickly.

After saying some 95 of his players — only 85 of whom are on scholarship — have some measure of an NIL deal, you followed by saying you’re tired of talking about it. You even went a step farther when you said you didn’t think it was a good idea for grown men to make even $120,000 in a year to play football.

“What I can’t accept is some young man getting $10,000 a month for four years or three years of college?” Smart said, via ESPN. “That’s $120K a year. What do you think he’s doing with that? Is that actually gonna make him more successful in life? Because, I promise you, if you handed me $10K a month my freshman year of college, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. I believe that.”

Yes, you’re probably right, Kirby. 

You know you better than anyone else does. You turned yourself from a walk-on safety between the hedges into a national champion defensive coordinator at Alabama and then head coach at your alma mater.

Perhaps no one this side of Mickey Andrews has been more responsible for developing NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball than you. If you quit today, you’d be a shoo-in for the College Football Hall of Fame, and I sincerely doubt any person has endured more butt -chewings from Nick Saban than you.

But I also sincerely doubt that if a wealthy UGA booster had offered you $10,000 a month during your freshman year in Athens, you would have turned it down.

Most of your players won’t make a living in the NFL — only the top 2 percent of college football players do.

Most of your players’ money-making years will come with you as their head coach. I know you want the best for them, so why do you want to limit how much they can make? That’s generational wealth you’re talking about.

Some of those players will buy their first house with that money. Others might earn valuable cash to help their families.

Is it that you don’t trust them? That can’t be right. 

After all, you only recruit the best, and you trust these adult men to take care of themselves and the program, don’t you? 

And I sincerely doubt you wouldn’t have taken the $10,000 a month because two days after you bemoaned the very idea of one of your players making a six-figure annual salary, the University of Georgia made you the highest-paid employee at a public university in history at a whopping $112.5 million spread across 10 years.

Surely, you can see here how the pot looks kind of silly calling the kettle black. I also understand that you and many of your brethren across high school and college do not like the present of NIL and the future of what’s to come — like players being paid directly by universities if I have my way. 

But as long as an 18-year-old can join one of the branches of the military in these United States, risking life to defend this country, they damn sure ought to be able to make as much money as they can for playing football at Georgia — or anywhere else.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.

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