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Hired Guns

Charlie Batch offers transfer portal star Caleb Williams $1 million to play at Eastern Michigan next season, NIL now fully off the rails

January 06, 2022

If you’re a college football casual, you’ve likely seen the name Caleb Williams bouncing around the internet this week and wondered just what the heck is going on. Didn’t this kid just wrestle the Oklahoma starting job away from erstwhile Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler? Isn’t he poised for big things in Norman in 2022? Right you are, friend. Or rather right you were, before Williams shocked the college football world earlier this week, announcing that he would be entering the transfer portal effective immediately.

It was the second whipped-cream pie straight to the face for the Sooners in as many months, following the high-profile departure of head coach Lincoln Riley to USC, and proved that the only constant in college football at the moment is chaos. Rumors have since swirled about where Williams will land. The five-star recruit even left the door open for an Oklahoma return. On Wednesday night, however, one very unexpected school entered the mix, descending from the rafters on wires playing "Rock You Like a Hurricane" on a giant flaming guitar. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Eastern Michigan to the table.

Yep, that’s former NFL journeyman and Eastern Michigan alum Charlie Batch offering Williams one million U.S. dollars for a single season under center for the Eagles. Hold up. We have a gif for this.

As mouth-watering as the prospect of Caleb Williams lighting up Tuesday-night MACtion is, we’re pretty certain this is not the way the NIL was designed to work. The problem, however, is that the NIL wasn’t really designed at all. It just sort of happened and everybody was so psyched about the return of EA Sports’ ‘NCAA Football’ they forgot to lay down some ground rules. Now the train is about to jump the tracks and go soaring off a cliff like a big, beautiful Dodo bird and no one is there to apply the brakes.

The basic premise that college athletes could (and should) make money off their names and likenesses remains intact. It still makes sense. It’s still, on balance, a healthy thing for college sports. But players becoming hired guns for third-party venture capital firms destined for IRS audits isn’t a cure for what ails college football, it’s just a different illness. But rest assured, regulations are coming. They exist in every industry of this little economic system we call capitalism, and they will exist in college football too. The only question now is how crazy (and crazy fun) things get before they do.