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Lane Kiffin on NIL: 'We're a Professional Sport'

Kiffin recently spoke with Sports Illustrated about the changing landscape of college athletics.

Lane Kiffin has never been one to hold his opinions close to the vest, and the same can be said for his stances on name, image and likeness legislation in college athletics.

Kiffin recently spoke with Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated to discuss the state of college athletics surrounding NIL, recruiting and boosters, and his diagnosis was clear: "We’re a professional sport, and they are professional players."

Lane Kiffin
Lane Kiffin 5
Lane Kiffin

Dellenger's story is formatted as a Q&A, but one point from Kiffin stood out among the rest--he sees NIL as widening not only the gap between the Power Five and Group of Five, but between Power Five schools themselves.

SI: How is this widening the gap in college football, not just between the Power 5 and Group of 5 but within the Power 5, right?

LK: I’ve in my head put it into three tiers. Here’s your 8–10 teams (in the top tier). This is no different than what’s been going on. How much money they put into recruiting, how much money they put into facilities. All of that. It’s just a different way, but it’s more important than all of it. It used to be O.K. Those guys have had the most in the assistant coaches pool so they could hire the best assistant coaches! Or they’ve spent more on facilities!

Then you have around 8–25 schools in the next tier. I talked to a coach the other day in that group, and he was asking about his player in the portal. I’m explaining it to him, and he’s not dealing with it at all because there’s no NIL at his level. I was like, ‘God, that’s got to be so refreshing—he’s just recruiting.’ Now, there are problems. The player is going to get taken. But it’s almost back to the purity of the game like high school football. As you go up, there is less purity.

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I think you’ve got three levels that are going to get really separated. People down there (25–130), they’ve got no money to give to players. And then you’ve got the middle ground (8–25), and then you’ve got the elite ones (top 8–10).

In the recruiting process [with the elite ones], coaches can’t say it to recruits, but whoever is talking to [recruits], they say, ‘Just know, you’ll get more here than anywhere else! Whatever you come back with, you’ll get 20% more here.’ Those people are going to get the best players.

I can recruit way better than you or you can me, but in the end, your school offers more money or mine does, and in the end, that’s where they are going. I could have worked my butt off for three years, and you could have done three minutes. There was a player who went to a school that we got beat on, and I asked him about the relationship with the head coach. He had never talked to him. NIL.


Kiffin recently gave his opinions on Twitter concerning the public spat between Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban regarding NIL, and one thing is for sure: the Rebel coach sees this changing the landscape of college athletics for years to come.


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