David Whitley: Florida Legislature needs to pass a bill to even the playing field for NIL

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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Before we ponder the importance of male hand size, here’s a football riddle: How much cash can fit in the hands of a Texas A&M recruit?

The answer is unclear, though asking it might cause Jimbo Fisher to put his hands around your throat. What is clear is Florida schools can’t fully compete in the new recruiting world.

That’s due to the state’s NIL law, which has quickly become outdated. Some quick background:

NIL is the acronym for Name, Image and Line Your Pockets. After decades of having to buy recruits under the table, it became legal last year for players to get paid by outside sources. Sort of.

The NCAA was clueless as usual, so individual states enacted legislation. That’s made the new recruiting Wild West even wilder.

More from Whitley:Payday for athletes arrives with the NIL revolution

And this:Billy Napier won't remind fans of past Florida Gators coaches, and that's a good thing

Other thoughts: Who will replace Tom Brady? Florida Gator Kyle Trask not likely the next Buccaneers quarterback

Florida can't compete on NIL, by law

In Florida, schools can’t directly facilitate deals between businesses and athletes. A bill has been filed to address that, but it hasn’t gotten any traction in the current legislative session.

“To a certain extent it’s like a race to the bottom in college sports,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls said. “How many sports cars can we put in the hands of 18-year-olds?”

As many as they want, Mr. Speaker.

I cringe writing that. We’ve all been conditioned to thinking paying recruits is crooked.

That’s one reason Fisher exploded over rumors Texas A&M spent about $25 million to buy its top-rated recruiting class. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin joked the SEC needs a salary cap to contain the Aggies.

“Clown acts!” Fisher said of the rumor-mongering rivals.

He said recruits are flocking to College Station because it’s home to a great school, a great football program and great chicken-fried steaks. Jimbo’s always been a great recruiter, but there’s no doubt NIL now figures into every sales pitch at every school.

How much is anyone’s guess, and that’s the problem.

“We need guidelines,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “We need consistency across the board relative to what there is to offer.”

That will require the NCAA to quickly figure out rules that are equitable, sensible and don’t violate federal law. Please don’t hold your breath.

You can, however, write your local state representative and ask him or her to pass the NIL bill. Like it or not, paying players is here to stay. If it remains a Wild West, Florida schools will need all the ammo they can get. 

Stud of the Week: Florida’s women’s basketball team, which upset No. 7 Tennessee and No. 14 Georgia to improve to 17-6. It was only the fifth win in 59 games against the Volunteers. Interim coach Kelly Rae Finley is putting together quite a case for getting the job permanently.

Whitley: Kelly Finley leading Florida Gators women's basketball from scandal to success

Dud of the Week: ESPN contributor J.A. Adande, who said the U.S. has no right to criticize China’s genocidal human rights policy because of voter-ID requirements in America. One million Uyghurs being held in concentration camps could not be reached for comment.

Runner-up: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who lost $31 billion last Thursday when Meta stock plunged. That’s enough to buy 7.76 billion Big Macs or 14 Texas A&M recruiting classes. 

Runner-up No. 2: California Gov. Gavin Newsom. He was caught breaking his own mask rules when he kibitzed in a skybox at the NFC title game and took a picture with Magic Johnson.

Newsome said he only took his mask because Johnson was “kind enough, generous enough to ask me for my photograph.”

Wait, Magic asked for a picture with him? 

Hands off says Kenny Pickett

Hands off: Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett refused to have his throwing hand measured at last week’s Senior Bowl. You can make up your own size-matters joke, but it doesn’t really seem to matter with quality QBs.

Joe Burrow (9 inches from pinkie to thumb) had the smallest hand of all first-round quarterbacks measured since 2008. And as we all know, Tom Brady had no hands when the Patriots drafted him in the sixth round. ...

Speaking of Brady, he set an NFL record Sunday when he skipped his 13th Pro Bowl in 15 nominations. That still gives Brady as many Pro Bowl appearances since 2007 as the entire Jacksonville Jaguars organization. ...

The NBA announced next season’s salary cap will be $121 million. That’s a $2 million increase but it still trails the NFL, MLB and the SEC West in per-team labor payouts. ...

Kyle Pitts weighs in 

After Brady announced his retirement last week, Kyle Pitts, the Florida Gator now with the Falcons, tweeted, “Kyle Trask...that’s all.” Pitts — who scored a touchdown in the Pro Bowl — should have added, “His hands measure 10.25 inches!”…

The biggest hands ever belonged to Robert Wadlow, who was also the world’s tallest human at 8-foot-11. His hands measured 12.75 inches from the tip of his middle finger to his wrist, but Wadlow still never made one Pro Bowl before his death in 1940. ...

Super Bowl prop bets worth considering: Cooper Kupp will be MVP is 6-to-1. Sony Michel will be the leading rusher is 11-to-1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will ask for a picture with Gavin Newsome is 750,000-to-1. ...

Cocoa Beach surfing legend Kelly Slater won the Billabong Pro Pipeline tournament in Oahu last Saturday, just six days shy of his 50th birthday. The Bucs then signed him to play quarterback next season. ... 

Update: Citing budget restraints, Jimbo Fisher has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Lakers’ coaching job. …

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. Until next time, try not to lose $31 billion in an afternoon. Given the price of sports cars these days, your favorite college football team might need it.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

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