Last week, I had an interesting conversation with a registered NFL agent. This particular agent formally represents several Michigan grads currently in the league, as well as guys currently on the team. He thinks well of many guys at Michigan, even though he is an OSU grad. Our discussion took place prior to the debacle, when I still had naive hope in a Michigan win. Sigh.
In our discussion, he shared that a huge number of highly rated players, including several prominent guys currently on Michigan's team, receive compensation. From his perspective, basically every kid who is from a low income family and is ranked more or less in the top 100 prospects, probably in the top 200 or 300 prospects, is currently receiving compensation. He also believes that given the ridiculous amounts of money involved, this makes sense. Why should rich white guys in the NCAA and coaches and institutions get more and more, when kids in challenging circumstances basically get nothing. (Well, they get free room and board and tuition, but that's basically in exchange for working full time as a football player on a Division I team.)
As regards OSU, this matter of compensation has given them a huge leg up on Michigan. One of the real reasons Zach Smith continued so long as WR coach was his ability to leverage compensation for recruits going to the Buckeyes. The reality is that if the same thing doesn't happen at Michigan, we are never going to catch up to Alabama and Clemson, let alone OSU.
I don't know quite what to make of it all, but I am sure this is the reality. My guess is that Brian is all too aware of the reality, and this is part of the reason he supports compensating players openly. I'm sure there are boundaries out there and lines you can't cross. That's part of the reason Ole Miss got in trouble: they either paid players too openly, or crossed the wrong powerful people.
Regardless, here are my major takeaways. First, the schools at the top shield the coaches with plausible deniability, but these same coaches almost have to be aware that this is going on. If bagmen or boosters or agents are compensating family members, they do it in a way that no one on the coaching staff has their hands on it or direct knowledge of it. Second, if my agent contact is correct, several top players at Michigan are part of the same practice. Which means that I don't know how accurate it is to be throwing stones at other schools and their coaches. For good or for bad, this is the current reality. Given the current economic status of many the families involved, and the obscene amounts of money to be made, it is fairly inevitable that this would be the reality.