Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is the dean of the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division coaches and trails only Alabama's Nick Saban in longevity within the ever-cannibalizing league.
Stoops is closing in on a number of the Wildcats' all-time coaching marks, and he's got a team that's a trendy pick to perhaps challenge Georgia in the East.
And like every other coach across the country, Stoops is trying to navigate unprecedented changes within the game – particularly now that the NCAA has cleared the way for student-athletes to profit off their names and likenesses.
“(Name, Image, Likeness) is a major concern of how it affects our game, how it affects your locker room,” Stoops said Sunday. “For me personally, yes I'm concerned about the way it affects our team.
“Many of our players feel like, they just want to concentrate on football and the great ones will do that. Because they know they have an ability to do something special, have an opportunity to play at the next level and that's really where they want their concentration to be.”
While schools can attempt to educate their players on the rules and regulations governing marketing deals, and can provide other educational services, they cannot arrange deals for players.
It's an learning-on-the-go situation that Stoops finds troubling.
“This is new, it's interesting because I can talk about it and educate but then there are rules and regulations about how far these tentacles can go and how much we can help them,” Stoops said. “It's always hard.
“You're floating a young person out there doing things and signing things that we're not properly educated on. We handle it the best we can. We educate them. We do have people who can help them within our athletic department and compliance and they are allowed third-party people to help them with all that.
“To think that all these student-athletes across the country aren't going to run into some problems, then we have our head in the sands.”
Stoops also expects one of the unofficial traditions of college football – players signing post-game autographs – to change as some individuals ink exclusive-rights deals to sign in exchange for payment.
“Whether players sign (autographs) or not on the way out (of games) and things, will it change? Absolutely it will change,” Stoops said. “I anticipate that a lot of our players will (still sign) and I anticipate that a lot of our players will not (sign).
“I think that will be across the country. I know that will irritate a lot of people. Our players are really, I don't just say this, we have a really good program, very good kids. Very good players that are very conscientious. They do so many things to help the community and are so unselfish. They really want to do right, they really do.
“So I just appreciate our players and what that looks like, where they can make a few dollars, I think we all can understand that, too. I don't see any of our players overly consumed with going out and trying to do this NIL thing. I see them concentrating on football, and I hope it stays that way.”