ATHENS — Kirby Smart might not have known UCLA and USC would be joining the Big Ten, but the Georgia head football coach shared a vision in May that was on par for how the dominoes appear to be falling.
Smart asserted almost two months ago that college football was headed into a land of haves and have-nots when sharing what he would do if he were in charge of the sport.
The Bulldogs were in charge of college football on the field in 2021 en route to winning the CFP Championship. The Georgia defense set a modern-era regular-season record by allowing just 6.9 points per game with a defense that featured five first-round 2022 NFL Draft picks.
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But Smart is more than just a head football coach; he’s also been credited with having a vision for growing Georgia football into an annual championship contender with aggressive facilities and recruiting plans.
That’s why many stopped and took note when Smart briefly took his eye of what’s immediately in front of him and was willing to look further into the future.
Smart’s thesis began with the notion of balance and uniformity across the sport with regard to NIL legislation, something that would likely involve a collective bargaining agreement and require congressional oversight.
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“I would probably look into something uniform for NIL,” Smart said during an interview with WJOX in Birmingham.
“If you could make it a uniform deal with the schools that have the capacity to give.”
The SEC and Big Ten, by virtue of their recent expansion to 16 teams — Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC by 2025, and USC and UCLA to the Big Ten in 2024 — will have TV packages with much larger payouts than other leagues, thus more money to potentially dole out to players.
“Some schools can’t afford to do NILs,” Smart pointed out. “Some schools just don’t have the support base to do that.”
It’s no accident the SEC added the No. 5 television market with its addition of the Longhorns and Sooners, while the Trojans and Bruins bring the No. 2 television market to the Big Ten.
Bigger markets mean more value for potential advertisers in the NIL game, and more brand appeal and exposure for the schools in the new super conferences.
Smart conceded there are still some elements of NIL agreements at the college level that are challenging.
“There’s a certain point where certain players have an ability to make a lot of money, and I think that’s great for the guys that have earned it, that are marketable,” Smart said. “Just like the guys in the NFL earn it and get it. (But) there are certain positions that get more than others.”
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Former UGA quarterback JT Daniels, who transferred to West Virginia, had a plan to share his NIL money with teammates.
That has not become a trend to this point.
Smart said the lack of uniformity remains a challenge.
“It’s hard to manage because every situation is different,” Smart said. “Every player is different.”