Chip Kelly says he roots for UCLA players’ NIL success, even if he can’t help facilitate it
College football coaches appear to have found a workaround for rules barring them from soliciting name, image and likeness deals for their players.
Just create a sense of panic.
Two months ago, Ohio State coach Ryan Day told local business leaders that his team would need $13 million in NIL money to keep its roster intact. A month later, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano reportedly informed a group of boosters that his team required an infusion of cash to keep players from being poached by more NIL-savvy teams.
In each case, the message was clear to any fan, booster or business listening: Show us the money.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly said Saturday that he could only support his team’s NIL endeavors from afar.
“I think people have kind of convoluted the whole rule,” Kelly said. “Name, image and likeness is the student-athletes can make money off of their name, image and likeness, but coaches can’t be involved in brokering deals for student-athletes. This is not pay for play, this is not recruiting inducements.”
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is determined to lead UCLA to success and prove his doubters wrong in his final season with the Bruins.
Yet isn’t building a robust NIL program important for recruiting and retaining players?
“Well, you shouldn’t have to do it in retaining them because schools can’t recruit people off your roster,” Kelly said. “So that would be an NCAA violation if that were to be occurring. So I think if the enforcement arm of the NCAA catches up to the rules of the NCAA, I think we’ll be in a great situation.”
Several Bruins have forged notable NIL success. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has made enough off his deals to cater a barbecue dinner and two-hour boat ride for the entire offense, complete with Uber vouchers to and from Marina del Rey. Receiver Kam Brown said he has secured about 10 deals, including one with Mercedes-Benz.
Some deals involve only free products, such as the clothing brands that have secured receiver Jake Bobo as an endorser. But Bobo said teammates who have enjoyed more significant NIL success have not lorded it over everyone else.
“There’s some playful jabs here and there, some jokes being thrown around like, ‘Use some of that NIL money, some for us,’ or something like that,” Bobo said. “But I mean nothing real, it doesn’t create a divide or anything down there in the locker room. That’s a positive that I had a question about when this whole thing kinda got rolling, but it’s cool to see that it’s nothing serious.”
Kelly said more than 140 businesses had registered with the Westwood Exchange program that connects companies, donors, fans and alumni with UCLA athletes seeking NIL deals. Not every Bruin wants to commit to adding to an already hectic schedule.
“The thing is, it’s really the guys who want to do it,” Kelly said. “Not everybody wants to be involved in it, not everybody wants to make the time, because you have to show work. This is not a quid pro quo; you have to do work. So if you want to make money in name, image and likeness, you have to be willing to go do the work that you have to do in name, image and likeness.
UCLA has high expectations for this season with an easy schedule to start things off. The Bruins open training camp Friday.
“People just can’t pay you X amount of dollars to do nothing. Maybe in some other places that happens, but at this place it doesn’t.”
Kelly said redshirt junior Laiatu Latu, the transfer from Washington who is coming out of medical retirement from a neck injury, would be initially slotted at outside linebacker but could play in other spots as well because of his exceptional size at 6 foot 4 and 265 pounds.
“He’s got a lot of versatility,” Kelly said. “He’s got a lot of athleticism.”
Latu has not played since his freshman season in 2019, when he made 16 tackles in 12 games for the Huskies.
Kelly said kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira would also get an opportunity to win the punting job that became available upon the transfer of Luke Akers to Northwestern. Standing in his way will be freshman Chase Barry, who shanked one punt and sent another booming downfield during the portion of practice open to reporters. … Linebacker Ale Kaho watched practice on a scooter, his left leg encased in a walking boot. … Kelly said linebacker Damian Sellers, offensive lineman Patrick Selna and tight end Mike Martinez, who were absent from practice, were “unavailable.” Sellers and Selna are no longer listed on the team’s official roster. Wide receiver Delon Hurt, who faces two felony charges as part of a sexual assault case, has graduated and is no longer with the program, Kelly said.
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