NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lane Kiffin went on a rant at SEC Media Days about how unfair about the NCAA transfer portal and NIL deals have made college football.
It’s worth pointing out Kiffin didn’t have a problem with inherent advantages programs have over others when it comes to facilities and, ahem, “recruiting power,” when he was the head coach at Southern Cal or Tennessee.
But now that Kiffin is leading Ole Miss, a program with more limited resources than its fanbase cares to acknowledge, he is full of talking points.
“I’m going to address the portal, NIL,” Kiffin said on Thursday at the SEC Media Days, “what I kind of call disaster we’re in.”
Disaster for who?
Georgia has won two national titles amid this NIL and transfer portal era and currently sits firm with the No. 1 recruiting class for 2024.
Coach Kirby Smart has been annointed -- by this author at least -- as the “Master of Roster Management” with good reason.
The Bulldogs don’t only identify, sign and develop great talent, but they also retain them better than most any other program in the nation.
Still, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch when Kiffin suggested money plays a key role for the most elite programs in the recruiting rankings.
The Top 11 classes of 2024, per 247Sports, currently look like this: Georgia, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Alabama, USC, Penn State, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
To be clear, Kiffin said he’s not complaining about it, “because we take advantage of free agency” having landed 13 mid-term portal transfers each of the past two years.
Georgia, by comparison, didn’t add any last year and has two of the three remaining that it added this year.
Kiffin said he doesn’t think massive roster turnover is good for college football, and the dynamics surrounding it are playing out as he predicted at the onset.
“Whatever programs have the most aggressive boosters with the most money are going to get the players,” Kiffin said.
“And now, we are adding some states that you don’t have to follow the NCAA, and now the university can take their money and give it to the collective to give it to the players.”
Smart hasn’t suggested things in such a direct matter, but he readily acknowledges the importance of the NIL.
“I think so much used to be built on your facility and how can you show them how you can develop them, the education, what’s your major going to be,” Smart said.
“So much has now become towards directed towards NIL …. "
Kiffin was asked where the “most aggressive and richest boosters” from Ole Miss rank in the SEC.
“I’m not about to start putting rankings out on boosters from top to bottom in the conference,” Kiffin said, drawing laughter from assembled media in a Grand Hyatt ballroom. “God, I want to so bad, though.
“But like I said kind of before, you want to look at the best boosters in the country and eventually the schools that have the most money that decide to pay the players, just look at recruiting rankings the next few years. That will give you your answer.”
Of course, getting great players and getting them to stick around are two different things.
Texas A&M had a record-setting signing class in 2022, landing eight 5-star prospects.
But the Aggies also had 31 players transfer out after last season, with current players acknowledging there was some dissension in the locker room.
Kiffin explained it’s not necessarily fair that some younger players coming into the programs make more than other established players who enrolled or transferred in before NIL’s growth.
Georgia has had some of those same dynamics, but that’s where the team’s leadership and connectedness has kicked in.
“It is what it is, guys, and you can’t fault them,” Kiffin said, talking about how money motivates prospects. “You’ve got 18-year-old kids deciding where to go. The No. 1 thing they decide on is money, their salary.”