A lot of fans are speculating/hoping that schools can use NIL to get around scholarship limits: Arrange enough NIL to cover the full cost of attendance and then some for certain players, take those players off scholarship and give those scholarships to someone else, in essence having 105 people on full ride. Possible/legal, or an uninformed pipe dream? To be fair I’ve seen it more in connection with basketball, but the principle is the same.
This is definitely possible, and I’ve spoken to several coaches worried about the possibility of losing scholarship players to walk-on NIL deals at wealthier schools.
But there is a number that the wealthier schools and any players who might take such a deal aren’t considering: 11.
That’s how many people can play at one time. I realize the occasional Matt Cassel has slipped into the NFL without playing much in college, but that’s the exception. The vast majority of NFL players started and played extensively in college. So giving up a scholarship and a starting or rotation spot at, say, a Group of 5 school to be a third- or fourth-team walk-on at a Power 5 school probably isn’t very smart if the goal is to play in the NFL. If the goal is to obtain a degree from that particular school and use its alumni network to further your career, then by all means take the walk-on deal.
But take it from someone who was a human tackling dummy on a national title team. If your goal is to play in college and possibly the NFL and you’re transferring in as a walk-on third-teamer, you’re probably making a huge mistake.
Some players may make that mistake. If they do, oh well. Hopefully, someone will take their scholarship slot at the other school and put it to good use. The only part that needs to be tweaked is ensuring those scholarship spots get filled. There may need to be a loosening of annual scholarship limits — while keeping the total limit at 85 — to ensure available scholarships go to deserving players.