No secrets here; Alabama athletics had itself a record year in 2020-21, both in-conference and nationally. That was then, though, and this is now, mere months removed but memories having since aged in dog years.
I say this all because, thinking you personally practiced Groundhog Day during monsoon season, the perception of NCAA sports could’ve changed for you post-recall—even more by the day—via climate shifts like growing benefits for amateur talents who are granted school-to-school movement with less restrictions than before.
With a nudge from above, Congress, universities’ underbelly adjusted to the current model of the student-athlete, one less antiquated than before and more malleable than previously. Like your torn-and-worn ball cap that reforms with a gentle bend.
Player benefits now extend beyond a certain-flavored Gatorade, as daily doses of endorsement deals fill the social media timeline of big-name athletic departments nationwide.
Thanks, of course, to name, image, and likeness.
NIL laws, an unfamiliar-but-booming transfer market, and subsequent player empowerment mean less continuity and more change, more fluidity for the Crimson Tide and its competitors.
From the ‘Bama backyard to the surfers out west, from football to soccer, it’s a makeover foreign to prior practices, and an untimely one considering the Tide’s roll up ‘til the turn of the academic calendar.
Rapid turnover recently, sure; more to come, too. But bad for college sports, unlikely. Abandonment of purity? Not since millions became billions, not since the dollar sign branded bold.
As for the redacted model of amateur athletics, think reboot to roster management but with an unimpeded mean i.e., the market will soon stabilize itself. New faces, newer names. Nothing more, at least to us unassuming viewers, you know, the ones without athletic ability worth monetizing.
Queue any quote from head coach Nick Saban, whether football-related or poignant wisdom passed on as a sidebar, he’s clear in conscious thought: success has an expiration date, to ineloquently paraphrase the finger-filled could-be jeweler—minus three naked digits screaming ‘Uncle!’ until a possible concession one day.
Last year has passed, and this year is present, which, in the realm of Alabama athletics implies no continuum and (un)copious continuity for a collection of teams that accomplished more as a whole than any of memory, minus the year 19-whatever that’s Smithsonian-worthy and predates even the devout historian hangin’ near Denny Chimes.
Any member of any Crimson Tide team last fall, winter or spring. Visualize their face, their gait, their jersey number. Now picture them in a different uniform, pro or college, and you could cash out in Vegas with vivid imagery of player movement alone.
It’s the reality, the perceived 50/50 bet of a new era, an era that not-so-covertly cosigns Alabama as one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Student-athletes have two tempting avenues open for exploration: stay in school longer to reap newfound benefits or skip town to improve your situation, academic, athletic or whatever the reason.
But know Alabama and its growing arsenal of athletic ammunition won’t be removed from the lead pack once monetary values are transparent and tangible to the teenage eyes. Or transfers’ eyes. Or, really, anyone who witnessed a successful-yet-sustainable model of collegiate athletics as I did in the last 12 months.
The boxes were already checked, and finally, business has become synonymous with student-athlete.