Campbell weighs in on NIL vs. pay-for-play deals in college football

Oct 30, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell along the sidelines late in the fourth quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Few coaches in college football have shown more of a willingness to adapt to the times than Matt Campbell.

That ability to adapt shined through during Iowa State’s magical 2020 season in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. While other programs struggled through the protocols, the Cyclones thrived, reaching the Big 12 title game for the first time in program history and winning the Fiesta Bowl for the school’s first New Year’s Six bowl win.

The Cyclones’ head coach continues to adapt to college athletics’ constantly changing world in 2022. He’s a major proponent of players being able to profit off of their name, image and likeness and will continue to push the importance of those opportunities.

But, you’re not going to see Campbell buying into the play-for-play arrangements that have led schools (or more specifically their collectives) to offer multi-million dollar deals to high school recruits in order to secure a commitment.

“For me, that’s not what I believe, at least in the college landscape,” Campbell said on Monday during the first stop of the 2022 Cyclone Tailgate Tour in Carroll. “Now, do I certainly feel like young people that have come into college and then earned the right to obviously profit off of their name, image and likeness? I do. I’m a big proponent of that. I’m a big believer in that opportunity. But, I think it’s earning that along the way, not recruiting with that. For me, that’s never been my belief system. I just think that you’re maybe setting young people up for more failure than you are for success when you’re leading with that.”

These pay-for-play arrangements made headlines when The Athletic reported last month that players are signing deals ranging from $500,000 to $1 million depending on their star ranking and position.

In March, the outlet reported a five-star recruit in the 2023 class had signed a deal worth $8 million with one school’s collective. As part of the deal, the prospect received $350,000 almost immediately with escalating payments totaling nearly $2 million per year throughout his college career.

That is not name, image and likeness, and it is not what the people who have been standing up for players’ rights to profit off their image have been pushing for years.

“Now, can you go earn those things and earn the opportunity to have those great things happen to you? Absolutely,” Campbell said. “I certainly think that’s what the popularity of our sport, what’s occurred really over the last 20 or 30 years with college athletics, has led us to, but to be able to lead with that on a 17-18-year-old, I just think those are hard things for me to maybe process and I’ll continue to grow with it. But, for a young man to come into a program and earn the right to do some of those things and have some of those things happen, I’m certainly a big believer in that.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.