College Football Hall of Famers Give Perspective on the Game

The National Football Foundation surveyed legends of the game for their opinions on current topics in college football.

IRVING, Texas (July 21, 2021) – The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) released today the results of a recent anonymous survey it conducted with College Football Hall of Fame inductees on current topics in college football. Topics covered by the survey included the College Football Playoff; Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) and player compensation; the transfer portal; and opting out of bowl games

“As the stewards of the game and the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation thought there was no better group to ask about current topics than our inductees,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “These living legends of college football come from all levels of play and represent five distinct decades of the game’s history.”

Although the majority of the 120 responses came from those that played at the FBS level (70.1%), the results also included players from the FCS (12%), NCAA Division II (5.1%), NCAA Division III (5.1%) and the NAIA (6.8%). There was also one participant from a college that no longer offers football. The respondents represented five decades of collegiate play, including the 1950s (7.5%), 1960s (30%), 1970s (28.3%), 1980s (22.5%) and 1990s (11.7%).

Below are the results of the survey interspersed with anonymous comments from the College Football Hall of Fame inductees, who were given the space to expand on any topics.

College Football Playoff (CFP)
The first three questions touched on the expansion of the CFP, with well over half of the Hall of Famers either strongly or somewhat in favor of the proposed 12-team format. Over half of the Hall of Famers either strongly or somewhat agreed the additional playoff rounds would lead to too many games for players in one season.

Hall of Famer Comments on the CFP
“I am glad to see the proposed expansion of teams for the Playoff; I would limit it to the top 8 ranked teams going into the bowl season. I am not a fan of automatic conference bids, because some conferences can be less competitive than others.”

“Expanding the Division I Playoffs is a great plan. Earning a berth in our Divisional Playoffs was always one of our primary goals. It allowed our student-athletes the opportunity to actually compete for a National Championship on the field. Most of our former players will say that playing in a playoff game was one of the highlights of their career.”

Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) and Compensation
The next three questions involved NIL and student-athlete compensation. More than half of the Hall of Famers either strongly or somewhat agreed college football players should be compensated in addition to their scholarships while they were split on whether NIL earnings should be capped. Nearly 70% of the respondents said they did not leave school early while many of the remaining Hall of Famers agreed the ability to earn compensation would have affected their decision to do so.

Hall of Famer Comments on NIL and Compensation
The topics of NIL and compensation generated the most additional opinions, including the following comments:

“NIL does not solve the problem it seeks to address. As it is currently conceived, it will create innumerable and intractable legal and financial complications. Schools have allowed NIL laws to emerge because of their reluctance to include student-athletes in the business and, more importantly, have failed to include education as part of the experience. The lack of a robust educational [element] within the ‘business of college athletics’ exposes NIL as a tacit admission that the pursuit of a meaningful education has been abandoned. This is a big thought, but there is a big business that is ignoring its fundamental purpose and that is unsustainable.”

“I believe players should receive assistance from their school regarding the marketing of their brand (name, image, etc.). There is a great opportunity to teach kids how to use OPM to start and maintain a business with an objective to make a positive impact in their community. To ensure that they don’t abuse their opportunity, they should be required to live in student housing while attending school.”

“I feel there should be some form of deferred compensation for players after they have completed their eligibility for the use of their likeness. If the school makes money off of the player’s likeness, then there needs to be a revenue share of some sort. This goes above and beyond the player’s scholarship ‘compensation,’ which they exchange for their play on the field.”

“My preference is for [athletes to not be paid] because it will split the locker room to the haves and have nots, making the college experience even more awkward! However, if you are going to pay them, certainly you can’t cap what someone generates. Instead of money, I would love to see the NCAA look to give these athletes lifetime insurance if they need it.”

“Athletes receive scholarships, academic assistance, excellent nutrition, name recognition – all of which are of value after their playing days.”

“I did play FCS football but spent my career as a Div. I coach. I feel that we have a professional league – the NFL – and we should work to maintain the student-athlete concept of college athletes. If a player thinks he is ready to play for pay or receive money for his name, he should be allowed to go to the NFL. The NFL should create a league for those who need additional training. College athletics should be reserved for true student-athletes.”

“Compensation for the selling of merchandise cannot be a singular reward. If a quarterback, running back, wide receiver has a hot selling item, the compensation should be shared with the team.”

Transfer Portal
The next three survey questions covered transfer policies in college football. The Hall of Famers were split on whether the transfer portal is good for the sport though more than half either strongly or somewhat agreed that the NCAA has made it too easy for student-athletes to change schools. More than half of the respondents either strongly or somewhat agreed that players should not have to sit out a season after transferring

Hall of Famer Comments on the Transfer Portal
“Allowing the free transfer of student-athletes to a higher division will result in the lower division programs to act as minor leagues, which will negatively affect college football. The transfer portal for graduates with an additional year of eligibility is a good thing, but to allow the plucking of players from programs at any time during their career is not. Also if an athlete wishes to transfer to a lower division program there should be no requirement to sit out a year.”

“I believe transfers should be allowed immediately in certain situations, i.e. position coach leaves or fired. Also personal situations at home.”

“Afraid that the transfer portal and paying players will destroy the purity and uniqueness of college football. I don’t want that to happen.”

“A kid should be free to go wherever they want in terms of school. Why would you restrict someone from going where they want? If you own them like a draft pick then you better pay them like a pro.”

Additional Topics
More than half of the College Football Hall of Famers strongly opposed players opting out of bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft. The respondents were split on the topic of schools providing financial assistance to former players to return and complete their degrees after leaving early for the NFL. More than half of the Hall of Famers either strongly or somewhat agreed that college football is a better commercial product than during their playing careers.

Hall of Famer Comments on the Additional Topics
“I STRONGLY DISAGREE with the commercialization of the sport and the plethora of meaningless bowl games for selfish purposes of business, private entities and more. It adds to the potential demise of student-athlete health and safety.”

“[Football is] a better commercial product because of TV and social media outlets allowing more people to watch more games.”