The new age of college football: How Mississippi has handled the changes in transfer portal and NIL

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 11:09 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s no secret that South Mississippi is home to many elite football players.

A list that includes Terrell Buckley, Justin Evans, Senquez Golson, and Brett Favre continues to grow year after year as technology advances.

University of Southern Mississippi head football coach Will Hall knows first-hand how much the landscape has changed.

“There’s really no kids anymore that aren’t found. If I get a phone call today about a kid somewhere we can be watching his film before we even get off the phone conversation.”

Technology isn’t the only thing that has changed recruiting. The new age of the transfer portal and name, image, and likeness otherwise known as NIL has taken the football offseason by storm and changed the game overnight.

The athletes hold all of the cards, which means the way players are being recruited has changed drastically. It also means college coaches across the nation don’t know their final numbers until training camp begins.

Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin has taken advantage of the transfer portal since the changes in mid-2021.

“It’s kind of strange even looking at numbers because you have numerous classes and then the transfer portal class. Some of the transfer guys haven’t started school so they may not be on our list even though we have their papers. There’s some strange rule around that.”

George County head football coach James Ray has sent a number of players to the next level. Ray has two former players who recently transferred to Will Hall’s program at Southern Miss and knows just how much things have changed.

“It has changed the game completely. We’re seeing that at the high school level. We are just now starting to get colleges on campus where in the past they would’ve already been here. They have to deal with the portal first and then they come out to look at high school guys. That’s a gamble in itself for both parties.”

The concept of college athletes having the ability to make money off of their name, image, and likeness has been one of the most controversial topics in sports. Now that NIL is here, everyone from the top down is trying to help their student-athletes with the lack of parameters around it.

“We’re a professional sport without a system in place to handle these kids being treated as professionals,” Lane Kiffin said.

“It’s awesome that they can get paid, we just don’t have a system in place around it with contracts and them being titled employees.”

Will Hall has a similar opinion to Kiffin and wants to use NIL as a tool to help his athletes understand financial responsibilities.

“I think NIL is good. I think the concept of it is good. I think it is good for people to be able to use their brand to make money. That’s what the American dream is all about. It’s exploded. I think we’ll see over the next few years some regulations come into effect that helps these players make sure they’re doing things the right way even more. We want to be on the forefront of that.”

James Ray says that NIL could potentially sneak its way into the high school level.

“Everybody wants to know how to deal with NIL. We were told last week that it’s starting to filter into high schools and other states are adopting policies for high school kids to get NIL deals which is crazy.”

Pascagoula head football coach Lewis Sims believes NIL will continue to be a bigger factor in players’ decisions in the future.

“The NIL is definitely going to change things. It’s going to make people look at places they may not have considered before. It’s going to be a bigger factor as time goes on. I think the NCAA is trying to figure things out as well as the college coaches because they’re recruiting the very best athletes they can find.”

Mississippi has handled the early stages of the transfer portal and NIL exceptionally well. From high schools to JUCOs to four-year institutions, players and coaches continue to adapt and look forward to a day that has more rules and regulations in place.

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