The NCAA was founded in 1906.
The history of the NCAA is a pretty fascinating one since it was founded because students kept dying trying to play college football. The schools needed an organizing body to set standards to basically stop involuntary manslaughter from happening on collegiate football fields and the solution was the NCAA.
The NCAA was always governed by the schools, collectively. It is the schools. They set up rules. Then set up more. Then set up more.
But the funny thing about rules is, when you’re trying to win, they’re really more like guidelines. So as soon as the NCAA started laying down rules, schools began to break those rules. Sometimes they got caught and got punished, sometimes they didn’t. The more proficient you were with breaking the rules the better your program could be. And now, when you look at the elite programs in most any sports, chances are they got their because they just got really good at breaking the rules laid down by the NCAA.
Cut to Oklahoma.
The Sooners are arguably one of the 5 or 10 best football programs in the history of college football. They’ve won the 6th most games and have the 5th best winning percentage in college football history. In the late 80s, the Sooners football program was hit hard after being caught violating all kinds of NCAA rules. And like most high level programs, they took the punishment and then went right back to how things were before. Sometimes it takes a few years, and the Sooners went through a tough stretch in the 1990s where they didn’t win double digit games once and won 9 games just two times. But in 1999 Bob Stoops was hired and suddenly the Sooners were back. Since Stoops was hired the Sooner have failed to win 10 games in just five seasons.
Mizzou fans should know the story pretty well at this point.
And that isn’t to say Missouri never cheated to get players. There are too many instances of malfeasance across all of college sports to think that anyone is absolved. But Oklahoma, at the height of their power in the late 1980s got caught. The way to sign elite talent was to dive into the black market created by NCAA rules.
Those rules have been thrown out the window now. Name, Image and Likeness rights have made paying players legal. The NCAA insists it shouldn’t be used to induce a player in recruitment but... come on. We know better than that. It’s one of the most important parts of recruiting.
Mizzou is recruiting much better these days. Eli Drinkwitz and Dennis Gates both have been able to land far more 4 and 5-star recruits than we’ve seen in years past. I think it’s safe to say both programs have momentum.
Are both programs using NIL to win recruiting battles? I hope so! Did Missouri use NIL money to lure Oklahoma offensive lineman Cayden Green into the transfer portal? I have no idea. If they did? So what? If they didn’t, also so what?
Green reportedly entered the portal after having his NIL offer upped significantly in Norman. Still he chose to take his chances with Oregon or Missouri (or possibly others). The NCAA system has been so stacked against players making any portion of the money they were earning for schools for so long that the self correction happening may seem like a lot right now.
But like most things, recruiting has rarely been simply about the best offer and most money. There are all kinds of little things that go into the choice of a school. Position, development plan, familiarity with the staff and who has the best relationship. Money is important, but at this point it’s hard to imagine that Missouri is able to offer millions of dollars and Oklahoma can only offer a few thousand. Chances are this is a lot more equal than you might think. So why a player chooses to leave is likely more complicated than just NIL money.
Which is why I feel like calling out the hypocrisy of OU fans here. OU has been the highest bidder for years. Now the rules have changed and there are new players at the table, and when the opportunity is the same players might choose to not live in Norman, Oklahoma.
OU fans have gotten a taste of what it was like to be the fan of a non-blue blood for 30 seconds and they immediately started crying foul and whining about tampering and the portal. I don’t know why Green entered the transfer portal. I don’t know if he’ll end up at Oregon or Missouri or somewhere else. But what I do know is it’s his decision to make, and it’s like this because coaches have gotten away with lawless rule breaking for decades and they got rich. The schools got rich and paid the coaches, but the players were left out (for the most part).
All they had to do was find a way to give out contracts. If you don’t want a player to transfer, they should have a multi-year deal which prohibits this. Hell, even Will Wade knows this is where things need to get to. The system has been broken for so long that any amount of power on the side of the players feels like an affront to the sport now. It’s not. It’s just course correction.