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Deion Sanders Says NIL Is ‘Becoming Free Agency,’ Hurting Lower-Funded Schools

As NIL deals take over college football and usher in a new era, even those who offer full-fledged support of players being able to capitalize on their earning power have expressed some concerns about its impact. The latest to weigh in on the topic? Hall of Famer and Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders.

Speaking to Carl Reed of 247Sports, Sanders said he was glad that players have avenues to make money beyond their scholarships, but said the current structure hurts smaller schools because they may not have the same funding some of the nation’s bigger programs have.

“It’s becoming free agency, real free agency, and if you don’t have it (money), you’re not going to be able to compete,” Sanders said. “It’s just another way, to me, to keep the schools that don’t have the proper funding down.”

Sanders has spent the past two seasons as Jackson State’s head coach. After a pandemic-shortened 2020, he guided the Tigers to an 11–2 record and SWAC championship last season.

In discussing how he views NIL possibilities in regards to his program, Sanders said he did not plan to place a large emphasis on it.

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“First of all, I’m not giving a kid nothing like that,” Sanders said, referring to the reported large deals that players at bigger schools have acquired. “I want you to focus on the NFL, not the NIL. You ball out, and you prepare yourself for the NFL. If you get comfortable when you’ve already got (NIL money), I mean, come on. How hungry are you gonna be to go out there and work and go get it?”

Sanders said that he and the Jackson State program have not gotten involved in “bidding wars” for players, and stressed that he hoped players choosing prospective schools would take a more long-term approach in determining where would be the best destination for them.

“If he’s been offered $2 million, that means they got it. That’s not the kids fault,” Sanders said. “That’s not his fault whatsoever. But he should be really looking at, ‘Where is this gonna take me? Is the quarterback there? Is the system there? Is the environment there? Am I gonna be happy?’ Because you can be rich and very unhappy. I’ve been that before.”

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