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Historic Day for NCAA; Swinney Believes 'I am 100% for the collegiate model and the value of education'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has never liked the idea of "paying players," going so far as to say that if the NCAA passed a resolution that authorized the paying of players that he would find another line of work.
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Monday, the NCAA paved the way for the landscape of college athletics to be changed forever in approving a path for athletes to earn compensation through their name, image and likeness.

Per the NCAA's website:

The Division I Council voted to recommend the Division I Board of Directors adopt an interim policy that would suspend amateurism rules related to name, image and likeness. The board meets Wednesday.

While opening NIL activities to student-athletes, the policy leaves in place the commitment to avoid pay-for-play and improper inducements tied to choosing to attend a particular school. Those prohibitions would remain in effect.

If adopted by the board, the temporary action would remain in place until federal legislation or new NCAA rules are adopted. The policy provides the following guidance to member schools, student-athletes and their families:

  • College athletes can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities are responsible for determining whether those activities are consistent with state law.
  • Student-athletes who attend a school in a state without a NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.
  • College athletes can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
  • Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.

With the NIL interim policy, schools and conferences may choose to adopt their own policies.

On Wednesday, the board will review the Council’s recommendation and any additional information that comes to light. Governance committees in Divisions II and III are also expected to vote on the interim NIL policy by Wednesday.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has never liked the idea of "paying players," going so far as to say in the past that if the NCAA passed a resolution that authorized the paying of players, he would find another line of work.

"We try to teach our guys, use football to create the opportunities, take advantage of the platform and the brand and the marketing you have available to you," Swinney said four years ago. "But as far as paying players, professionalizing college athletics, that's where you lose me. I’ll go do something else, because there's enough entitlement in this world as it is.

"I've always said I'm against the professionalization of college athletics and the devaluing of education. That's what I've always said. If we professionalize college, we might as well coach the pros," he continued.

The reason for Swinney's staunch, anti-paying players stance is simple: he believes that the benefits of a college education and the opportunities that football can provide are a benefit that cannot be measured. 

"I'm always for the value of education and the collegiate experience, always have been. Nothing has changed," Swinney said in 2019. "But I have always said I am 100% for ways to modernize the collegiate model."

Very few people in the world of college football coaching world can appreciate the value of what college football can provide more than Swinney, as he literally climbed up from nothing to where he is today.

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“So (going to college) was a special journey, and for me, I ended up at Alabama, I had some opportunities," Swinney said. "I remember my basketball coach called me in his office. He's still mad at me to this day because Coach Kellogg, he thought I was a really good basketball player, and I think I was pretty good, too, but he wanted me to play college basketball. He felt like—he had some people that were interested, and he was like, are you going to do this or am I just wasting my time, and I'm like—I said, coach, you're wasting your time. I'm going to Alabama.

“Once I realized that I could go to Alabama, I didn't know that I could go to school. I thought I was going to have to go a JUCO route and either play baseball or play basketball or go to a smaller school and play football. I thought that was going to be the route I was going to have to go until one of my counselors told me that I would qualify for what was called a Pell Grant. I didn't know what a Pell Grant was, and I didn't know how to do student loans. I had no clue. I had no collegiate background in my family of how to do that type of stuff."

The idea of paying players is not a new one, and while no one will argue the fact that players help drive the revenue of the football program, one can also not argue the fact that they are provided with unique opportunities.

They are given dining opportunities not afforded to the normal student. Through scholarships, they receive an education that leaves many other students on campus with an amount of debt that some will never be able to repay. They also are afforded opportunities to travel, the P.A.W. Journey, clothing, shoes, bowl gifts, rings and a platform on which they can showcase their talents for the scouts and GM's—along with many other things that a normal student would love to have.

These opportunities are what Swinney believes separates the college athlete from the normal student working part-time at a local sandwich shop.

"Modernize the scholarship, love the fact that we have a stipend," Swinney said in Oct. 2019. "Somebody said one time I was against the stipend. I never was against the stipend. I think the stipend should have been more, as a matter of fact. I am for all of those things.

"I think it's a positive that there's going to be some conversation, but I'm for the collegiate model. I'm 100% for the collegiate model and the value of education. That's never going to change with me. Our country needs that and our kids need that, for sure. I think there's a way to make it all work."

While Swinney agreed to the richest contract in college football history, let's not forget that he began 10 years ago with one of the smallest—a mere $900,000 to take over a storied program—something he points to as a reason that athletes can rise above their financial difficulties.

"You know, as a kid growing up, that's what you want," Swinney said. "You dream about stuff like this, so to actually be able to live it, man, I'm just so thankful. I prayed that this morning. I'm just thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of it, and I don't take it for granted. I just have such a great appreciation for how hard it is, and for how hard it is for so many people to come together with a common purpose. It's just—it's indescribable.

“But it all starts with a belief, and for me, that belief started as a little kid in Pelham, Alabama, a belief in myself and a belief in a future and a hope in a future that was greater than my present circumstances. I always had that, and that's what's driven me my whole life.”

Swinney apparently has since softened his stance since telling reporters that if players were going to be paid, he would find another job, but it is still clear that he wants to maintain the current "collegiate model."

“I think it is a positive there is going to be some conversation, but I am for the collegiate model,” Swinney said after last year's vote by the NCAA moved the discussion forward. “I am 100% for the collegiate model and the value of education. That is never going to change with me. Our country needs that and these kids need that for sure.

“I think there is a way to make it all work in a really positive way. Nobody really asked my opinion, but if they ever did, I would be happy to share it with them. I think there are lots of ways you can capitalize and make it better for everyone and keep it equitable within the collegiate model.”

But even after walking back the comments made four years ago, it appears that Swinney will have to either battle the NCAA, Congress or both, or he will have to accept the fact that these athletes will ultimately be paid for their name, image and likeness.

“My belief is NIL is totally insufficient,” Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, told SI in a February meeting. “Giving students access to make money off their NIL is totally insufficient to solve this problem. I’m of the mind that we should be looking at a broader set of legal protections to allow schools to compensate athletes.”