Notre Dame Must Embrace Name, Image, Likeness Inevitability And Use It

Players making money off their name, image and likeness is coming, and Notre Dame must embrace it and use it to equal the playing field
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The time is coming, and it will likely be here soon, when players are going to start benefitting from their name, image and likeness. Notre Dame must immediately embrace this and start using it to their advantage. Being proactive is an absolute must, and if the program is willing to do that this could provide a major boost on the recruiting trail.

I personally don't love the path we are headed down, and thanks to the federal government's involvement, the odds are that the education part of going to college to play football is going to become less and less important with most programs.

Programs around the country are already using it as a recruiting tool, something former recruiting coordinator Brian Polian addressed on signing day.

“I think that as other schools are putting out, propaganda is not the right word, but they're putting out, 'Hey, look what we're going to do for you in name, image, and like this,'" Polian said. "I think it's very premature. The federal government is involved in this, so to think that right now that there is a clear plan and path in place is it's just not right. 

"Once the parameters are set, then we will build a program and be able to address it in recruiting, but I also believe we are not going to get into recruiting battles with another school because they can have a guy go to a car dealership and sign autographs for $10 an autograph," continued Polian. "If you're picking Notre Dame, something like that is not going to be the difference in picking this education and this atmosphere and this incredible campus. 

There are some aspects of what Polian said that make sense and are understandable, but the tone behind his comments are troubling to me. It seems as Notre Dame might be dragging their feet with this, and I hope I'm wrong about that. 

The well-known and accepted reality in college football is that many big-time programs pay players to get them to attend their school. Notre Dame, however, is not one of those programs.

The name, image and likeness changes present Notre Dame with a golden opportunity (pun intended), assuming they embrace it, to level the playing field a bit. Polian's final statement on the subject was interesting.

"So obviously as the rulings come out and the parameters are set, we will work with our athletic administration, with Jack Swarbrick, Father John [Jenkins], they will give us an idea of how we're going to move forward and we'll be competitive, and frankly, the power of the Notre Dame brand is national, it’s not regional, and I have no doubt as the rules are put in place that we will be able to capitalize on the power of that brand and our student-athletes will as well.”

Polian's comments on the subject seemed erratic. In one breath he's talking about how players looking to make money in certain ways won't really make the difference in regards to them picking or considering Notre Dame.

I get where he is coming from, but the reality is Notre Dame's coaches should be jumping for joy at the possibility that they can monetize the name, image and likeness for players. Notre Dame now has a way to sell financial gain on the recruiting trail, and it's legal.

Notre Dame needs to embrace this change and come up with a comprehensive and diverse plan to allow players to make legitimate money from their name, image and likeness while also ensuring they aren't losing sight of the academic needs of the school. That needs to happen immediately. No, we don't know the specifics, but the staff can and must come up with options they can pitch to players, and then react accordingly when the NCAA does make rulings or changes or announcements.

Not all recruits take money, and not all top recruits want money, and more still can get offended by the notion, something I've seen first hand. Those are players Notre Dame can have success with, and those are prospects that will likely see the bigger picture of their college decision. Having a comprehensive plan in place for those students to benefit financially from being at Notre Dame could help the Irish start landing a couple more players per year. 

Players who take money now do so for different reasons. Some take it from a greed standpoint, others feel entitled and others simply like money. Those recruits are likely never going to be interested in Notre Dame, and perhaps that's the group of players that Polian has in mind.  

Others who currently take money come from families in dire financial situations, and many feel taking money is necessary to help support their families. Waiting three to four years to get to the NFL or start using their Notre Dame degrees is often not an option, or at least those types of players don't view it as an option.

Notre Dame can now appeal to some of those players. Will it be dozens of prospects that will now come to Notre Dame every year who fit this bill? No, of course not, but it certainly could be a player or two per year, and as I've stated in the past Notre Dame is simply a player or two away in each class from getting over the hump.

There are also prospects who weren't previously interested in taking money who will now be attracted to it (when it becomes legal) because they are smart and savvy, or they come from families who are smart and savvy. Those are the big-time prospects that Notre Dame can and absolutely should start going after and appealing to.

If other programs are coming up with plans to benefit those prospects Notre Dame cannot sit back and wait for the NCAA or federal government to act. They need to be honest with players about how there are no guarantees and programs are being premature, but they also need to have some plans of their own.

The Notre Dame coaches need to say to recruits, "Look, here are some possibilities of what could happen, and here's how Notre Dame plans to take advantage and allow you to start making money."

Notre Dame is a major, major brand. One could argue they are the premier brand in the country, and if you don't accept that they are certainly one of the three to four biggest brands. Few programs have the kind of power to turn this into a major strength like Notre Dame can, but only if they embrace it.

Those smart and savvy prospects, or the top prospects with business-oriented parents, or thoughtful and savvy parents, will look at that money as an investment in their futures beyond just the degree, and those are absolutely prospects Notre Dame can and must start appealing to.

My concern is that Notre Dame will fail to be proactive in this movement, not embrace it, use it as another excuse as to why they can't recruit top players and start falling behind. 

If the staff proves me wrong, embraces this movement, comes up with strong plans and starts pitching those plans this could end up providing Notre Dame with a significant boost on the recruiting trail. That could be one more way for Notre Dame to close the gap with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

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