Clark: Hunter a huge loss for FSU and a warning of what's to come next
I don't even know where to direct my anger, my frustration, my utter bewilderment on what happened earlier today. I truly don't.
Should it be at Mike Norvell? I mean, maybe.
Maybe if his team had performed a little better this season, an FCS school doesn't look even a little bit enticing to the No. 1 player in the country?
But what is the Florida State head football coach to do when his star recruit might have an opportunity to make seven figures to take his talents elsewhere through a rumored NIL deal?
Money talks. To ALL of us.
Should the anger be directed at Deion Sanders? I mean, I guess.
Hey Prime Time, you couldn't go after the SECOND-ranked player in the country? That still would have been a great story for you and Barstool Sports, right? It still would have been unprecedented. But no. You had to go after No. 1? Who just so happened to be committed -- for almost two years! -- to your alma mater?
Et tu, Deion? Et tu?
But in fairness, Deion's job is to win football games for Jackson State University. That's what he is focusing on. That's all he cares about. That's what he's paid to do, same as every other football coach in America.
And the Jackson State University football team just got a whole lot better on Wednesday. Which is great for that institution specifically and great for HBCUs overall.
Should it be directed at Travis Hunter? I mean, I guess.
If you're going to pull a stunner like this, maybe, maybe reach out to the coaches who you've had a relationship with for 20 months and give them a heads up way before signing day? And maybe do the same to the other FSU commitments? So, they're not all sitting there shocked and heartbroken when you announce you're going to Jackson State.
It doesn't seem like this flip came out of nowhere. I have to imagine it's been weeks in the making. But I could be wrong.
Then again, if my son was offered what it's rumored -- all potentially legal by the way -- Hunter was offered to head to Jackson State, I certainly wouldn't advise him to do anything other than what he did. Because the NFL isn't a guarantee for anyone. Not even a freak athlete who is the No. 1 recruit in the country.
So, if you can set yourself up with a huge payday for just being a great high school football player, then who can blame him for taking that deal? (Maybe just don't throw the FSU hat away like yesterday's trash next time.)
Should it be directed at college football as a whole? Well, yeah. That's sort of where I have landed after I've had time to process the news of today.
Because for years, the NCAA and its member institutions made it forbidden for college football players to make any money off their talents and accomplishments -- but allowed coaching salaries to skyrocket off the planet -- and now it's finally allowed student-athletes to get paid for their name, image and likeness.
If some sort of payment plan had been set up way back when, back when salaries started getting obscene and back when games were still being won on the backs of players who were getting paid in books and free classes, then maybe we wouldn't be dealing with the Wild West right now.
Maybe there would be some actual structure here. Maybe there would be some clear regulations as to how this all works. But, for now, the NCAA has thrown up its hands and said, "Figure it out on your own."
So, high school recruits are on their way to earning millions of dollars before they've ever even played a game. They're getting deals set up for them, by universities, by media companies, by documentary filmmakers, before they've even stepped foot on the practice field.
I'm a free market guy. I promise!
I've always felt you're worth whatever someone is willing to pay you.
But there are rookie salary caps in the NFL. And in the NBA. And in the NHL.
Major League Baseball doesn't have a salary cap, but it has a detailed pay scale structure based on service time. And then it has free agency ... where it becomes the Wild West.
College football, with the NIL, is now just the Shootout at the OK Saloon.
And Deion just became Doc Holliday.
I have no problem with players getting paid. Truly, I don't. But college football is one of the four biggest sports in the country. The other three have at least a semblance of regulation on how the money is spent. There are rules.
At the OK Saloon, there are no rules.
And that's I guess where my frustration lies.
Not because Florida State lost Travis Hunter -- hey, for all we know, he'll only be in Jackson for a year -- but because of what this sport has become.
The money has become so outrageous, the salaries and TV contracts are at an all-time high, and yet the oversight and structure of the sport itself is as loose as it's ever been. With no sign of changing anytime soon.
The transfer portal has become a dizzying fever dream, with dozens of players flying through that thing every second of every day. And college coaches continue to get paid exorbitant sums -- heck, Norvell himself just got a $4.5 million one-year extension after going 5-7 for crying out loud -- so it's not like I feel bad for them. They're the reason we all realized how unfair it was for players to get paid in books and classes while they got paid in truckloads of dollar bills.
There are unintended consequences to everything. Opening up NIL deals was the right thing to do, in my opinion. Because it wasn't like any other avenue had ever been truly explored to cut the players in on anything, despite the fact that it had become a multi-billion-dollar business with huge TV revenues.
And because of that lack of foresight decades ago, we're here now.
Instead of the under-the-table payments that have been going on forever, they are out in the open for the world to see. Players are rightly going to schools who offer the best deals. Even if they're done by third parties and brokers. Wouldn't you?
And, in one year, really in one announcement in the Collins Hill High School auditorium, we've all come to understand that if you don't have your ducks in a row behind the scenes, if you don't have a pool of money in the millions of dollars, or connections to people that do, then you probably aren't going to be signing the best players in the country.
Because it's not like Travis Hunter is going to be a one-off. Not if there remains no oversight.
The deals, just like they did with coaches, are going to become bigger and better and more elaborate. Only all these deals will be done by third parties and brokers, so who knows where this thing ends up going?
Travis Hunter is like the canary in the gold mine for high school athletes.
It didn't have to be this way. Not if the powers-that-be (powers-that-were, I guess) had actually tried to address this issue many moons ago instead of just talking about "amateurism" at every turn, despite being paid millions to help organize and coach an "amateur" sport.
So here we are.
I guess in all honesty I'm not mad at anyone. I don't blame any of the people involved in the Travis Hunter recruitment. How could you?
I've just come to the realization that this is college football in 2021.
This is the new world order.
And we're all going to have to deal with it.
Contact senior writer Corey Clark at email@example.com and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.