Former FSU quarterback McKenzie Milton offers strong views on NIL, bowl opt-outs
football Edit

Clark: McKenzie Milton hits target with takes on NIL deals, bowl decisions

Despite his senior year not turning out anything close to the way he wanted, despite only playing a handful of snaps the final six weeks of the season, McKenzie Milton is still one of the most recognizable names in college football.

Which is why the Florida State quarterback was on a prominent podcast this week with former ESPNer Dan Le Batard, to talk about all the various issues facing the sport as we head into 2022 and beyond.

I thought what Milton said was well thought-out and insightful. He gives the player perspective on NIL deals and opting out of bowl games, coming on the heels of ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit suggesting that if a college football player doesn't take part in a bowl game that he just doesn't love the sport.

Milton took serious issue with that sentiment.

"I don’t know if he’s saying that because of who is playing his bills, you know what I mean?" Milton said to Le Batard. "But to me, it's easy to say that when you’re getting paid millions of dollars behind a desk. A lot of these kids come from nothing."

***Don't miss our exclusive FSU sports coverage. 30-day Free Trial**

McKenzie Milton is using his platform to speak on behalf of other players.
McKenzie Milton is using his platform to speak on behalf of other players. (Melina Myers/USAToday Sports Images)

That's what Milton continued to point out. Repeatedly.

That so many of the players he has played with -- at both Central Florida and Florida State -- come from such humble beginnings that they send their cost-of-attendance checks back home to their families to help with groceries or clothes or whatever their parents or siblings might need.

They don't come from money. Some come from extreme poverty.

So, why on earth would they play in an Outback Bowl against Iowa when they have a chance to be a millionaire in a few months? Why would they risk injury when they have a chance to change the lives of their family members forever?

Especially, as Milton also pointed out, coaches are bouncing ALL THE TIME for more money.

Brian Kelly didn't stick around to coach Notre Dame in a bowl. Lincoln Riley didn't coach Oklahoma. Heck, Mike Norvell didn't stick around and coach Memphis. They all left. And I don't recall Herbstreit and his fellow opt-out critics saying much about that at all.

"I couldn’t get down with what Kirk was saying," Milton said. "I love Kirk. I think he is really good at what he does. But to me, that wasn’t a good take. To me, [Ole Miss QB] Matt Corral, I probably would have done the same thing. I probably would have played. But I can’t fault any of these kids for opting out of a bowl game that’s a month and a half away when they have the chance to set up their families for life. To me, it’s a no-brainer.

"Fans that say they’re quitters and stuff like that, who are you quitting on? You’re helping your family, and family comes first.”

Who in the world could argue with that point?

We all make decisions based on what's good for our families. And the way the college bowl system is set up, with many exhibition games being played a full month after the regular season is over, is not good for college football players, Milton said.

He said the opt-outs would decrease if the bowls were held one week after the conference championship games. That it becomes so much less appealing for players to go through "another spring practice" before their final games.

He pointed out that many players also have to miss another holiday season with their families, along with delaying their NFL Combine or Pro Day preparation, just to play an in a mid-tier bowl game that only exists to make money for the people who aren't playing the games.

I hear you, McKenzie.

There are two realities we need to address when it comes to the bowls: First, the playoff expansion will definitely help keep the star players on the field. Instead of four teams actually caring about the postseason, there will be eight. Or 12. That's good for the sport, in my opinion.

And here's the second reality: Start viewing these games through a different lens. The players have realized that these are just exhibitions. And if you're a draftable college football player, you are going to think twice, and then twice more, about risking your future for the Cheez-It Bowl.

So, let's all just move forward knowing that your star players aren't going to take part in regular bowl games anymore. It's like college baseball fans understanding their best players aren't coming back for their senior years.

You just live with it. You know the deal. Same way with bowl games. If FSU had made one, none of us would have been surprised when Jermaine Johnson decided to not suit up.

And I hope none of you would have been Herbstreits either, criticizing him for not loving the game. When all he's trying to do is protect his livelihood and provide for himself and perhaps his family.

"When you have the opportunity to make millions of dollars, get your family out of whatever situation they are in, it’s a no-brainer," Milton said. "Why would you stick around for the next two months eating PB&Js instead of getting shredded for the NFL draft? So, when you’re in front of these scouts, you’re ready to go. Instead of another two months in that system, where you’re really breaking down your body."

We all should live our lives like we're getting shredded for the NFL Draft, by the way. You know I'm all about that life.

Now onto the NIL: Milton has been at the forefront of that movement as well.

It's not like he raked in millions this year quarterbacking the Seminoles, but man he would have CLEANED UP if the NIL had been around when he was the starter -- and superstar -- at Central Florida. He knows that.

And he knows, like we all do, that it's only fair that college players can make money off their names. Because so many other people are.

Now, I'm not suggesting there doesn't need to be some regulation thrown in here at some point. To the contrary, I don't think it's sustainable for the sport to just allow seven-figure deals going to recruits, without some sort of laws in place. But I do know NIL is not going anywhere. I also know, again, that college coaches get paid in more than scholarship checks.

Milton does, too.

"Coaches make business decisions. TV analysts. But all of the sudden when a 21- or 22-year-old kid makes a business decision, its not right," Milton said. "I can’t understand that. These kids are getting smarter. They’re starting to get smarter and see the system. I’ll even talk about the NIL stuff with what kind of went down in the [Florida] state legislature this year where they tried to delay the year, to where it would have been 2022, to where the can would keep getting kicked down the road. Where these guys can’t profit off their own last name -- not the names on the front of the jerseys.

"It literally makes zero sense that they tried slipping in a one-liner to delay this NIL bill. And if Florida would have delayed it, the whole country would have delayed it. The NCAA wouldn’t have folded. For me, now it's providing opportunities for female athletes, male athletes, to run camps in their own names. To get extra money in their pockets. To help their families out. It's kind of been a corrupt system for awhile. I think we are starting to get where the kids are starting to figure out -- this isn’t right."

I know some of you bristle at this notion.

Because it's not the sport we were raised on. But the sport we were raised on didn't pay coaches $10 million a year either.

The money for EVERYONE associated with college football has sky-rocketed the last 30 years. Except for the players.

What's been so difficult, I think, for many of us is how quickly this all came about.

For 60 years, we were told players can't be paid, players can't be paid, players can't be paid. And then, overnight, players are getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to sign with a school. And it's perfectly legal.

And it's going to continue.

I don't know how many more times we'll get a chance to talk to McKenzie Milton. I also don't know how much longer he'll be a big name in the world of football. We'll see.

But he's a big name now. And, whether you agree of disagree with his opinions, it's cool to see him using his platform for guys who don't have one.

Contact senior writer Corey Clark at corey@warchant.com and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.

----------------------------------------------------

Talk about this story with other Florida State football fans in the Tribal Council