If I wanted to write the shortest column ever, and anger those above me at LGHL, I would simply say: he doesn’t. However, I am not going to go that route… With the introduction of the transfer portal, potential opportunities in one-off leagues like the XFL and USFL, and players choosing to sit out for draft prep, NCAA football now has its own version of free agency and the play empowerment era.
Name, Image, and Likeness legislation will likely add to the chaos that is becoming amateur athletics. The athlete is now emboldened more than ever to choose his or her path. Not to say this is an entirely bad thing: college athletes have been fiscally taken advantage of for years. While I’m not sure freebie transfers and NIL rules in individual states are the way to go, that is a different argument for a different time. Ryan Day and Co. are now tasked with trying to appease an entire roster — or risk losing them. While the challenge is becoming increasingly more difficult, I believe that the Ohio State staff will navigate these waters very well, and they have certain advantages working in their favor.
“This is THE Ohio State University, and we expect to compete for a championship every single year.”
That statement alone should appeal to recruits, potential transfers, and current players alike. There are very few programs with the ability to say such things, and say them confidently. Other programs — which shall remain nameless — attempt to speak such things into existence, but their glory years are now decades behind us. OSU has established a foothold amongst the elite in college football, and there seems to be no drop-off in the immediate future. Urban Meyer and now Day (along with many important others) have built a program poised to be successful for years to come. That in and of itself is a great selling point, but it is only one of many that the staff can use to keep players engaged and excited about the program.
Ohio State’s recent track record in the NFL draft is another strong selling point for athletes looking to potentially be successful at the next level. Ten Buckeyes were drafted in the 2021 draft, tied with Alabama for the most players from a single school, and since 2011, the Buckeyes have the second most players selected in the draft behind Tide. Notice the trend? OSU is, and has been, producing ready-made talent on the field for years.
Student-Athlete Education and Awareness
Just as they do for players on the field, Ohio State staff and the university do their best to prepare them for success off it as well. Programs such as Real Life Wednesdays give student-athletes an opportunity to learn life lessons, network professionally, and set themselves up for future success in whatever they choose to pursue. While numerous Buckeyes have gone on to have great NFL careers, the fact of the matter is most players will graduate and look for a job like the rest of us. Education programs and job fairs are the norm for players in Columbus — not so much in a city like, say, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just picking a random city out of the blue…
In recent years, in addition to keeping the afore mentioned programs very active, Day and the whole Ohio State administration have done a great job creating, supporting, and advocating for “real-world” awareness. Day and the other coaches are not content to coach football and call it a day. This staff is full of teachers, mentors, and advocates. Whether it be racial issues, the pandemic, or mental health, these coaches get it. They are more than willing to speak with and support their athletes in a way I find very admirable. Many potential, past, and current players have spoken up similarly in support of Day and Co.
Social Media and NIL Developments
While not completely related, social media and the upcoming NIL developments are important to student-athletes and programs as a whole. The Ohio State social media team is arguably second to none. Their efforts and creativity shine a spotlight on past, present, and future players. Look no further than this week as a prime example. As on-campus recruiting visits start up again, 2022 recruits making their way to Columbus are sharing OSU-produced media to make their announcements. Players have been given a platform like never before, and the OSU social media team goes to great lengths to create excitement and assist them in getting their names out.
Name, image, and likeness issues have been at the forefront of college sports for a few years now. Finally, NIL legislation is starting to pass, and collegiate athletes will have an opportunity to profit from the use of their personal “brand”. Whether you believer amateur athletes should or should not be paid, it is increasingly difficult to argue that the NCAA, conferences, and universities do not reap the biggest rewards. NIL laws will now give student-athletes a piece of the profitable pie. 16 states have passes NIL laws, and six of them are slated to go into effect in July. While Ohio has not yet established anything, legislation was recently drafted and introduced. This will allow OSU to keep pace with schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and others. College sports is becoming a competitive marketplace. Without the NCAA establishing national guidelines, Ohio is now being proactive in this unique arms race. Doing so will undoubtedly appeal to athletes. To further prepare their players and families for recent developments, Ohio State is launching The Platform: a program to educate them on such issues. This is just another example of the additional education OSU provides to student-athletes.
Ohio State is appealing. It always will be. Unfortunately, that appeal will not mean the same to every football player. The program will have recruits flipped, players transfer out, and/or choose to leave before they have reached their full potential. It is just the world we (they) live in. When every class is full of 4 and 5-star recruits, some are bound to lose patience and seek opportunity elsewhere. We as fans should not fault them for that.
Fortunately, we can rest easy at night knowing that OSU is more than adequately prepared to deal with the losses. We will always reload. The program and the university will sell itself. While it is probably a foregone conclusion that someday we’re going to lose our own Justin Fields, who goes on to be great elsewhere, those players will be more exception than rule. Ohio State can lean on the opportunity provided to its student-athletes and rest assured recruiting, coaching, and on-field success will keep the roster loaded with talent.