THOMASVILLE — College football’s landscape — and its future — have changed dramatically with a couple of significant moves, an ESPN analyst said Wednesday.
Former University of Georgia star David Pollack, now part of ESPN’s popular College Gameday crew, noted how much the game will change now that Texas and Oklahoma are joining the Southeastern Conference and now that players can benefit from their name, image or likeness, or NIL.
“I think it’s big for all of college football,” Pollack said. “You’re bringing in huge brands. Outside of Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson, Oklahoma’s probably been the best program in the country the last five or six years. You’re bringing in a winning brand, a winning culture, that goes back a long way. The brand of Texas speaks for itself — a lot of money, a lot of cachet. It expands the footprint even more now.”
Earlier this summer, Texas and Oklahoma asked to join the SEC and they will become full-time members of the league in 2025.
Since the advent of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, and later the College Football Playoff, SEC teams have won 13 national championships. Oklahoma, which has seven national championships in its history, and Texas, with four titles, each won once during the BCS era.
Pollack acknowledged the Sooners’ and Longhorns’ path to a CFP berth — Oklahoma has been to four CFP semifinals, including three straight, while Texas has yet to make a CFP semifinals — will be tougher in the SEC than it was in the Big 12.
“It was 100% easier,” he said. “Oklahoma has struggled in the big College Football Playoffs games. They gave up 4,000 to LSU a couple of years ago (a 63-28 LSU win). They gave up 50 to Georgia. (54-48). You’ve seen them struggle.”
The SEC made its first foray into Texas less than a decade ago when it brought Texas A&M and Missouri, which also recruits heavily in the Lone State State, into the fold.
And with Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, those recruits from Texas who sign with other SEC schools likely will get a chance to play in front of family and friends.
“When you’re a recruit, the most important thing is close to home — can my parents see me play, can my grandparents see me play?” Pollack said. “And now the kids from Texas, you can play in the SEC being at home. I think it helps them in recruiting, big-time.”
The recruiting game may be changing, too, now that the NCAA is allowing athletes to cash in on their NIL. Bryce Young, the projected starting quarterback Alabama, is said to be close to $1 million in sponsorships. Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers, whom the Buckeyes recruited out of Texas powerhouse Southlake Carroll, is reported to have signed a $1.4 million sponsorship deal.
BYU has reached a deal that pays for tuition for its walk-on players, and Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett made sure his offensive linemen were in on the agreement he reached with a hotel and restaurant.
“All those walk-ons got their scholarships paid for, which is awesome,” Pollack said.
How coaches handle some players making this kind of money in such a short period of time will be worth watching, Pollack said.
“It could be a slippery slope,” he said. “The players deserve more. They are a big part of the brand. I’d hate to be a coach having to manage it. Think about if you’re a coach and six weeks into the season and your dude is setting the world on fire and now he has all this money and all this opportunity he has to balance with football that he’s never had to deal with before. It can be overwhelming. It will be interesting to see how coaches deal with it.”
As for himself, Pollack, a three-time all-American and three-time all-SEC defensive end, doesn’t want to think what NIL would have been like in his playing days.
“I would have probably spent a lot of money on stupid things,” he joked.