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Gene Chizik bemoaning athletes' transfers, NIL deals shows college football coaches' control is waning

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5-min read
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Gene Chizik, he of a perfectly mediocre 38-38 record as a college football head coach, tweets supposed pearls of wisdom every few days. They almost always end with the hashtag #WordsofChizdom, because you can't get advice like, "Pay close attention to those who don't clap when you win" just anywhere.

Twice this month, Chizik has bemoaned the new state of college athletics, where the young adults on campuses around the country who also take part in athletics can now make a few dollars while doing so and — gasp! — transfer schools if they're unhappy.

Scrolling his timeline, Chizik makes no mention of the still-employed college football coaches who abandoned their teams in the dark of night for massive paydays, with one absconding while the program was still in the national championship hunt.

Huh.

If Chizik implies players who transfer are quitters and "the next thing isn't always better," where is his tweet for Brian Kelly, who abandoned Notre Dame for LSU? Isn't telling players you love them, as Kelly did, as you're walking out the door to a bigger payday foul in Chizik's world?

What ever could be the difference between Lincoln Riley leaving over 100 Oklahoma players in the lurch for his own selfish gain at USC and someone like OU quarterback Spencer Rattler leaving the school to try to find a better situation for himself?

Chizik's tweets usually go unnoticed, but if he was looking for attention with his post earlier this week grumbling about a new name, image and likeness deal for University of Texas offensive linemen, he got it in spades.

Dragged to the tune of 2,500-plus quote tweets, nearly all of them rightfully commenting on the audacity of a former college coach, and Chizik in particular, up in arms college players will be getting some money.

Gene Chizik makes a face on the sideline during an Auburn football game in 2012.
Former Auburn football coach Gene Chizik complained on Twitter about athletes' NIL deals and the transfer portal. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Chizik isn't the only current or former coach bleating on about these things. On Wednesday, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of the transfer portal, "It's chaos right now. Tampering galore. Adults manipulating young men. Education is like the last thing now," and called for the rule that forced players to sit for a year if they transfer to be reinstated.

There's no greater lack of awareness than a college head coach who can leave a job at a moment's notice and start working at a different school the very next day without penalty saying college athletes shouldn't get to do the same.

Well, maybe there is a greater lack of awareness: Chizik. At least the $50,000 each the Longhorns' o-linemen will receive is above board; while Chizik was at Auburn, the school reportedly paid $180,000 to get Cam Newton to play there and was investigated by the NCAA. Once Newton moved on to the NFL, Chizik was exposed as nothing special (career record without Newton: 24-38) and was paid $7.5 million to leave after the 2012 season.

The gall to say the athletes, the ones putting in the work and putting their bodies on the line and putting the thousands of butts in the seats in the cavernous stadiums, shouldn't get paid when you did your own job so poorly you got millions to go away.

And it's not the schools that are paying players, or — heaven forbid — the money is coming out of coaches' contracts (just the opposite, the past couple of weeks have seen an incredible increase in the salaries of Power 5 coaches). The athletes are getting sponsorships with outside entities, and even the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in athletes' favor earlier this year, with über-conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing it's not possible to justify "the NCAA's decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student-athletes who are not fairly compensated."

And still the griping persists.

We have our suspicions why. For decades, these coaches have been able to control players. Whenever anyone says a coach has a plantation mentality, they're shouted down, but threats and intimidation, as many handle scholarships (which must be renewed yearly), or wanting to deny a person's movements and decrying them receiving payment for work — what else should it be called?

There are estimates the NCAA's shamateurism causes athletes in Power 5 conferences alone to lose out on $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion a year, and that number rises with each new broadcast rights deal. The majority of those athletes are Black. The vast majority of the coaches and athletic directors fighting the idea of players getting paid are white.

Correspondingly, a 2020 study found while 51% of adults believed NCAA athletes should be paid, when you break respondents down by race, white people were 36% less likely to agree athletes are entitled to payment. A similar study in 2014 found 53% of Black people supported paying players, but only 22% of white people did.

To anyone who knows American history, the support for continued exploitation is not a surprise. Thankfully a few years ago, players started fighting back, and while players haven't fully embraced their power yet, they've been inching closer to it.

Regardless of what Chizik or Swinney or all of the other critics say about college athletes finally earning some money and being able to transfer schools without penalty just like any other student, it's a new and welcome day, and one that's long overdue.

Some #WordsofChizdom: Get over it. You can't control these athletes anymore.

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