football Edit

Clark: Should FSU, other schools be investing in facilities or NIL deals?

I'm going to date myself with this reference, but I don't care. It's a fitting one for the occasion.

When the great Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Sr.'s son) screamed at Jerry Maguire (played by that couch-hopping weirdo) during their fateful film conversation a quarter-century ago, he was asking for one thing and one thing only.

And he wasn't shouting, "Show me the Football Facility!" into the phone.

It was, in fact, "Show me the money!"

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Rendering of FSU's planned football operations center.
Rendering of FSU's planned football operations center. (Courtesy of FSU)

That's what Tidwell cared about most. That's what just about everyone on this planet cares about most when it comes to work, and it's why real questions are being asked about what exactly IS the best way to recruit college football players moving forward in this new Name, Image and Likeness reality.

For years, Florida State has been planning and raising money for a stand-alone football facility. Millions of dollars have been raised so far. Millions more are on the way.

And yet I think it's fair to ask how much FSU even needs one right now, if this is the new world order of college football recruiting.

I've always thought the main reason it's being built in the first place is to lure recruits to wear garnet and gold. A nice, shiny new building -- maybe with a recording studio and a barber shop and a flight simulator -- might be enough to entice a four-star prospect to choose FSU over another school.

It would, at the very least, get FSU on the same footing with most of the schools it's recruiting against, because almost all of the big-boy programs across the country have them already.

So, it does make sense for Florida State to have a football facility, too. (Not to mention all of the practical reasons, such as space for athletic training, recovery, nutrition, performance development and academic counseling.)

And the reality is, it's going to be built. Too much time and money has been invested into the project already, and new athletics director Michael Alford has made it clear this is one of the first priorities on his agenda.

But, if we're being pragmatic, if we're being honest with ourselves, what do we think is going to help FSU football more in the short term?

Spending 80 million dollars to build a football field house? Or using those funds, through the unpoliced, unregulated terrain of NIL deals, in the player-acquisition department?

Imagine the kind of roster you could put together with THAT kind of money? And, unlike in years past, it's perfectly legal now to shower players with deals and inducements once they sign with your school. (They have to come through a third-party in Florida right now, but look for that to change in the very near future.)

I know kids love zip-lining and go-Kart tracks and barber shops, but no matter what bells and whistles the FSU football facility ends up having in it, none of them will be as popular and beloved as a big ol' fat check.

Show me the money, right?

I'm sure if you went and asked every single player on the FSU football roster if they would rather enjoy a $3 million bowling alley or just split that money up amongst themselves, the immediate laughter would tell you all you need to know about that difficult choice.

This isn't exactly a football facility vs. NIL column though. Because FSU needs a football facility. And it's being built. So, no point in even arguing about it.

What I think is vital moving forward, what I think every athletics department and booster program in the country is going to have to figure out from this day forward is: What is the best use of this money?

I was talking to a Florida State assistant last week after National Signing Day and he mentioned this very topic. That the money, at all these schools, is finite. Just because you now have an avenue to pay players doesn't mean you just add more money to the pot.

The money is the money. The pot isn't getting any bigger. You just have to decide how to divvy it up now. And the question becomes: Who exactly decides what to do with these booster donations? And will boosters get to choose exactly where their money goes? And more specifically, to whom?

With that in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if coaching salaries hit a ceiling here very quickly.

Maybe not at Alabama and Ohio State, where they just print money apparently, but at most other schools in the union. They are going to have to ask themselves: OK, do we want to take this $5 million here and guarantee it to this defensive coordinator for the next three years? Or do we want to take that $5 million and get ourselves two five-star corners, a four-star linebacker and an All-American defensive end?

What is actually going to make us better on the football field?

Do we really need to upgrade the video board in the stadium? Or can we take that money and go to each of the top 20 players in the rankings and tell them they'll all get a $1 million NIL deal upon signing with us? You might just sign the best recruiting class of all time with that strategy!

Then your team starts winning championships again, and so much money comes pouring back into the program that you can buy two brand-new video boards. Maybe even hold out some extra cash to lure a highly regarded transfer from Jackson State? The possibilities are endless!

Don't get me wrong: Facilities matter. Coaches matter. We all understand that.

But the most important element of college football, of really sports in general, is player acquisition. Getting the best players on your team significantly improves your chances of winning games.

For years, college football programs have tried to attract those best players by a number of different means. Some of those were illegal, of course. High school recruits wouldn't exactly scream, "Show me the money!," but instead they might say, "don't EVER show me the money, just place it in a bag and throw it at my doorstep the first day of the month."

But other than via the bagman route, colleges have attracted the best players they could get with facilities, coaching acumen, NFL pedigrees, championship histories, 80,000-seat cathedrals and passionate fanbases.

They forged relationships in recruiting. They put in real time and effort into making a player feel like part of the "family."

This is what recruiting has always been.

Now what is it?

The best player in the country just juked a three-time national championship program out of its shoes to go play in the FCS.

Would that have happened if Florida State had funneled a chunk of that football facility money, or some of the money from Mike Norvell's recent contract extension, to Suwannee, Ga., instead?

I don't know. It's impossible to know for sure. Maybe playing for Deion and being an HBCU trailblazer really was the reason for the last-second switch.

Either way, I think we all understand now that the business of recruiting has drastically changed. Because there are absolutely no real regulations nationally for these NIL payments. The bagmen are legal now. Deals can be done over the table. In the sunlight. For everyone to see.

So, when it comes to five-star talents, potential All-Americans and first-round NFL Draft picks, you best believe colleges are going to have to start showing them the money.

The question is: Where will that money now not be going because of it?

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


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