Chat Transcript: Will Notre Dame football be left in the dust of the NIL's Wild West?

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

The Notre Dame football questions were flowing during Wednesday's NDInsider.com live chat. Here's the transcript:

Mike from Quakertown, Pa.: Hey mike! Thanks again for taking our questions. I always thought players being able to capitalize on name, image , and likeness would be great for student athletes, but it seems like things have taken a Wild, Wild, West turn with the lack of NCAA oversight and regulation. I know Notre Dame head football coach Freeman said he will always recruit the right way, but do you think the Irish will be left behind? Do you think there is a way Notre Dame can capitalize on its global brand, appeal, and donor base in an ethical way in order to keep up? Do you think NCAA oversight might be coming? Thanks!

Mike Berardino: Good morning, Mike. Thanks for stopping by. Your question is timely as an NCAA task force on NIL is in Phoenix this week to present a long-overdue set of "guardrails" to administrators and coaches from at least four conferences, according to Sports Illustrated. Credit to SI's Ross Dellenger and everyone else involved in reporting this week's expose of just how far afield NIL has run already. In its haste to avoid lawsuits and chaos a year ago, the NCAA flung open the doors last July 1 and engendered something that was entirely predictable. Good luck putting that booster genie back in the bottle.

Speaking of moving up timelines, outgoing NCAA President Mark Emmert shouldn't wait until the summer of 2023 to step aside. He should get out of the way now so someone with an actual hold on college sports can keep that ship from running aground.

As for Notre Dame's role in all of this, its FUND collective publicly aims to reward student-athletes for their good works once they arrive on campus. The earning potential there appears quite modest and quite different from the inducement-soaked model currently at play around the country. Holding onto the nation's top-ranked 2023 recruiting class against that backdrop would be almost impossible, but let's see how quickly these new "guardrails" take effect and if an emasculated governing body like the NCAA can indeed still scare the "make it rain" crew back to the underground. I'm understandably skeptical about the chances of this thing making a tidy U-turn.

Allan from Whiteland, Ind.: With RB Logan Diggs unlikely to contribute much this season due to shoulder surgery, who is likely to take the playing time he would have received? How much does Diggs's injury set back the running back position for Notre Dame this season? Thank you for answering my question.

Mike Berardino: Hey Allan, thanks for the question. It remains to be seen how quickly Diggs will be able to return to football activity after having his left labrum repaired the week after leaving the spring game. No official timetable was offered in the announcement, but most online medical reference sites suggest a minimum of 12-plus weeks of rehab before "sport specific exercises" can resume. That suggests, at best, a light load for Diggs during fall camp and a return to full contact sometime around the season opener.

Of course, it might take him longer to reclaim his place in a deep rotation that now adds former Indiana signee Gi'Bran Payne to early enrollee Jadarian Price and holdovers Chris Tyree and Audric Estime. Position coach Deland McCullough has made it clear he plans to use a committee to replace Kyren Williams now that  he's off to the Rams. For what it's worth, Diggs shared his "Terminator"-style prediction via social media over the weekend: "I'll be back, believe that (100 percent)."

Ced Walker, Saginaw, Mich.: Will running back Logan Diggs be ready for summer workouts and fall camp?

Mike Berardino: Hello Ced. Thanks for your question. Please see the answer above.

Kim, Wichita, Kan.: With the small amount of Notre Dame players drafted, do you feel we have a more talent staying, ergo better results on the field?

Mike Berardino: Hi Kim, that's an interesting riddle you present. On paper, yes, you would think a Notre Dame roster that lost just two NFL draftees would be in better position than the one that sent nine draftees (including the program's all-time winningest quarterback in Ian Book) out the door a year ago.

However, it would be a mistake to discount the loss of undrafted free agents like wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr., quarterback Jack Coan, defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, linebacker Drew White, nose tackle Kurt Hinish, kicker Jonathan Doerer, linebacker Isaiah Pryor and guard Cain Madden. Just because they weren't drafted doesn't mean they won't be missed on the field in 2022.

Austin, in particular, would have been a great security blanket for Tyler Buchner (Coan's likely successor) and an offense that can only lean so much on All-America candidate Michael Mayer. Austin's ill-fated decision to leave early will be a running storyline next fall.

David, Washington, D.C.: Marcus Freeman coached six Cincinnati defensive players who were drafted in 2022; Four had been two-star recruits in high school and two had been three-stars. None were offered by Power 5 schools and about half had MAC offers. Who gets credit in that system for that incredible player development?

Mike Berardino: A great point after an incredible draft weekend for the Bearcats program with nine players getting the call. It's not only Marcus Freeman, who was there in Las Vegas to offer in-person congratulations to Sauce Gardner on his No. 4 overall selection.

While Freeman was with the Bearcats as their defensive coordinator from 2017-2020, Irish CB coach Mike Mickens coached Gardner and fourth-rounder Coby Bryant through 2019. And Irish special teams coordinator Brian Mason was in that same role at UC from 2018-21 after serving as director of recruiting in 2017.

Whenever a single program (much less a Group of Five program) sends that many players to the pros in one draft, it's a shared achievement and one that no doubt involves excellent coaching along the way.

Ken, Pensacola, Fla.: Do you think this year’s team that can FINALLY win a national championship?

Mike Berardino: Hi Ken, while the title drought is up to 33 seasons and counting, I can offer you no bold predictions at this moment. What I can do, however, is share some quick historical research. Since the first AP national title in 1936, just three programs have won it all with a coach in his first full season at the helm: 1948 Michigan (Bennie Oosterbaan), 1989 Miami (Dennis Erickson) and 2001 Miami (Larry Coker).

Since 2000, however, six programs have ended title droughts of 34 years or more, including Freeman's alma mater, Ohio State, in 2002 under his mentor Jim Tressel (34 years). Other long-suffering fan bases to celebrate since then: 2003 LSU (45 years), 2005 Texas (35 years), 2010 Auburn (53 years), 2016 Clemson (35 years) and 2021 Georgia (41 years).

So, maybe?

John, Wisconsin: What do you see as the current chances for ND to land Dante Moore? Should Irish fans be concerned this will not end well?

Mike Berardino: A question that's on the mind of every fatalistic Irish fan: Will the five-star quarterback leave Notre Dame at the altar? There's no point in speculating, even after Otha Moore, Dante's father, said the family was "blown away again" after taking an official visit to Oregon over the weekend.

There had been rumblings that Moore would narrow his list this week, but even if that happens it would be a complete shock if Notre Dame doesn't make the cut. Irish great Jerome Bettis told us recently on our "Pod of Gold" podcast that he and Otha Moore "hit it off" while talking old-school Detroit on the Moores' unofficial visit.

The last post on Moore's Twitter account is of him at Cincinnati with former Bearcats cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner. "Enjoy tonight," Moore wrote in advance of the NFL Draft. Like Moore, Gardner is a product of Detroit's King High School. And one of the first former coaches to congratulate Gardner after he went No. 4 overall in the NFL Draft: Marcus Freeman.

Andy from SWA: Jack Swarbrick seems to be at the very least complicit in the rapid devolution of college football.  He has been pretty silent and very careful not to criticize his fellow ADs about the NIL farce and the transfer portal shenanigans. Do you expect him to show any leadership in these issues? Or would that be hypocritical for a man who pulls a $2 million salary and seems to act out of self interest rather than provide stewardship in these times.

Mike Berardino: Not sure what you're referencing when you mention Notre Dame's athletic director being "pretty silent" on the NIL issue. I'd say Swarbrick has used his public platform and private influence at several junctures in this ever-evolving battle for the heart and soul of big-time college sports. That includes his pointed comments to our Tom Noie in a two-part Q&A back in February. And have you noticed how the buzzword in every recent story about NIL is "guardrails"? That's been a Swarbrick catchphrase on this topic for quite some time.

Matt, Long Island: Hi Mike, thanks for the chats. Considering the thin numbers at WR, and the apparent "slim pickings" to make an addition through the transfer portal, are there any DB/Safeties in the portal worth taking a look with the idea of moving Xavier Watts back to offense?

Mike Berardino: Hi Matt, my pleasure. That's certainly some outside-the-box thinking. Seems to add a third layer of uncertainty to an already unpredictable process: 1) new school 2) late arrival 3) position switch. I'm not ruling it out, just saying it's even trickier than normal. And based on what Watts told us during spring ball, he's staying put at safety, where he's a rising star at the back of Al Golden's defense.

All right, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for the questions, everybody. See you next week for another Live Chat.