It’s always exciting to be around for the start of a gold rush.
If you didn’t make Sutter’s Mill in 1848, think of the dot-com lunacy of the late-1990s, the subprime mortgage stampede of the mid-2000s and the legalized gambling fantasies that continue anon.
Mayhem always occurs, but right now we’ve got the college-athlete gold rush taking off, and it looks to be a dandy.
Once the courts finally determined that big-time college athletes were what they always had been — unpaid workers — and had the right to sell their name, image and likeness on the open market, the mine doors opened.
Here’s the only example you need:
According to a report from On3.com, Miami quarterback recruit Jaden Rashada agreed to a $9.5 million NIL deal with billionaire Hurricanes booster John Ruiz. That’s money for coming to the school and playing, of course.
The cherry on top, according to On3.com, which bills itself as ‘‘the premier college sports database’’ and was started by founders of Rivals.com, is that Rashada turned down even more money from Florida. The Gators’ bid reportedly was $11 million.
Think of that. Rashada hasn’t even started his senior year at Pittsburg (California) High School, near Oakland, but his pay likely would be more than a number of NFL quarterbacks make.
The 6-4, 185-pound, four-star recruit grew up only a two-hour drive from Sutter’s Mill. But he figured out a much easier way to get rich than panning for shiny rocks in a mountain stream.
Of course, Ruiz — the owner of LifeWallet and Cigarette Racing — came back with a semi-denial of the huge amount he allegedly offered. On Monday, he said on Twitter: ‘‘The report by On3.com is inaccurate as it relates to Jaden Rashada.’’
Not dead wrong, mind you, or made up. Just inaccurate.
So let’s say it’s off by $1 million or so. Maybe by $2 million or $3 million, even. Big deal. And, for what it’s worth, nobody has denied the Florida bid.
Then, too, the largest college NIL deal is alleged to be an $8 million offer for five-star quarterback recruit Nico Iamaleava, who is en route to Tennessee. Iamaleava’s figure also comes from On3.com, a site that might have hyperbole at its heart but that grubs around pretty hard in the college closet.
The powers that be are trying hard to keep it under control, of course, but they let the whole ‘‘amateur’’ system/cartel thing run to their liking since the beginning of time, and now they’re paying for it.
These endorsement deals purportedly have nothing to do with actual recruiting; that’s a no-no. It’s also a huge laugh.
In April, Ruiz bragged on Twitter that he had just gotten Kansas State basketball guard Nijel Pack to transfer to Miami for the ‘‘biggest LifeWallet deal to date, two years $800,000 total at $400,000 per year plus a car. Congratulations!!!’’
Ruiz already has money deals with more than 100 Miami athletes in several sports.
Oh, it’s crazy out there. What once would have gotten an athlete suspended, thrown out of school and possibly even charged with a crime is now the path to success.
The schools and NCAA are scrambling to make enforcement rules that will work in the new world of athletic freedom, but they haven’t come close yet. School by school, conference by conference, it’s all a mishmash of guidelines and pure hope.
But the monster of capitalism has been unleashed, and it even has rumbled down to the high school level. In December, Rashada signed a paid endorsement deal with an online app. That made him the first high school football player to do an NIL deal.
Is junior high next? Why not?
Recently retired NCAA chief Mark Emmert was a bureaucrat and an old-school know-nothing, just like all the directors before him. He tried to tamp down the fires in the NCAA’s ‘‘amateur’’ system until he realized he didn’t have any more arms, legs or shovels.
So now the NCAA has what it wrought: a mostly unfettered money grab by freed athletic teenagers.
Remember when Alabama coach Nick Saban went off on Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, raging that, ‘‘A&M bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness. We didn’t buy one player, all right?’’
A chuckle was in order here. Clearly, Saban enjoyed the pre-NIL advantage he had in recruiting before some of that Texas oil money got thrown around at recruits. Also, like Alabama is clean?
Anyway, your college studs are now pros for real.
Ain’t that America.