While Dabo Swinney was largely mum on the topic, Brad Brownell was more expressive with his reaction to the recent spat between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher regarding Texas A&M’s alleged recruiting practices within the name, image and likeness realm of college athletics, saying he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more finger-pointing among coaches in the future.
“Probably could be, yes,” Clemson’s veteran basketball coach said during the school’s Prowl & Growl tour in the Charleston area Tuesday.
Asked if he was surprised the verbal jabs between the two prominent SEC football coaches played out as publicly as they did – Saban accused A&M during a speaking engagement last week of buying its entire top-ranked recruiting class, prompting Fisher to respond with a heated press conference – Brownell said it was “different” and added it was “probably not a great look for our profession.”
“But it’s emotional, competitive people in a very competitive business, and those things are going to happen sometimes, especially as coaches are interviewed and the amount of things that are said and done,” Brownell continued. “That’s going to happen every once in a while.”
Brownell said the primary frustration for him and other coaches when it comes to NIL opportunities for student-athletes is the vagueness in what’s allowed and what’s not. It wasn’t until earlier this month – nearly a full year after officially legalizing NIL payments and well after the majority of football programs put the finishing touches on their 2022 recruiting classes in February – that the NCAA issued new guidance clarifying NIL collectives as boosters and that those groups aren’t allowed to use money as incentive for prospective student-athletes to attend their school or to keep current athletes from transferring.
Yet with most states having their own NIL legislation and potential antitrust law complications, the most pressing question is whether or not the NCAA can actually enforce its policy. The NCAA itself has sought help from the federal level for a more unified NIL framework.
“I just think we’re all looking for direction as much as possible,” Brownell said. “I don’t know if there is any. I’m not sure where that’s going to go or who’s going to give it right now, whether it needs to be legislated from the NCAA or whether it’s going to be the government. I don’t think any of us really know where it’s going, but it’s here. And you as an athletic department better deal with it.”
Until there’s more clarity on the issue, Brownell said the conditions are ripe for a potential replay of last week’s public sparring between Saban and Fisher.
“I do think there’s going to be some frustration and things that boil over occasionally,” Brownell said. “It’s not like that’s never happened in the past. It wasn’t always NIL that caused that. There’s always been occasions where coaches have disagreed about things.”