GREENSBORO, N.C. - The topic of compensating college football players was far hotter at the 2013 ACC Kickoff media days than it was in 2014.
(At least it was at the tables where I was seated.)
Gotta pass along the strong words of one of the three quarterbacks on hand Sunday: North Carolina's Marquise Williams, who made himself out to be one of the more underrated personalities in the ballroom at the Grandover Resort.
Williams was asked four pay-for-play questions, starting with a general request for how he'd counsel the NCAA on fixing the current collegiate model, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney would emphatically approve.
"To be honest with you? I wouldn't have any suggestions. Things at Carolina are perfectly fine," Williams said. "I can't complain about what the University of North Carolina does for us. We're treated very well. Whatever I ask for, we have it."
Williams has a very worldly view of how players should be compensated, probably in a way that many folks who don't follow college athletics can understand. (Think of the poor sophomore engineering major who works/studies 15 hours a day, gets three hours of sleep a night and gets paid nothing for his troubles.)
"We can't be provided with cars. We don't want cars. Can't be provided with jewelry; we don't want jewelry," Williams said. "The things we have are what we have. The NCAA's doing a wonderful job, and UNC's doing a wonderful job."
It was obvious this raised some eyebrows with the reporters surrounding Williams. As a Clemson beat writer covering a team which will in consecutive years feature a cornerback involved in legal battles to recoup money for college athletes (Darius Robinson in 2013, Martin Jenkins in 2014), I asked Williams if he thought he had teammates who disagreed with his stance.
Again, Williams teed off.
"No, because guys shouldn't feel that way," Williams said. "Guys get food. We get meal checks. I don't understand. What else do you need? Do you need a Bentley in your driveway? No, you can't get a Bentley. There's certain things you're not going to be able to get until you're in the NFL.
"I haven't seen any guys complain about, aw, we should get this, we should get that, because we're treated fairly."
A national reporter chimed in: should players sign away their names and likenesses, which is the central issue of the Ed O'Bannon case, instead of cashing in on their celebrity?
"I don't want to be in a commercial, and I don't think anybody else wants to be in a commercial," Williams answered. "That can bring in a lot of different things, as far as, you see me on the commercial, and the next day, I'm Mr. Big and Bad, I'm cocky. If you're cocky, you think you run the world, but you don't."
The only suggestion that got Williams admitting he understands the other side of the coin (bad pun unintended) was the issue of North Carolina selling his No. 12 jersey - or Clemson selling No. 10 jerseys, or South Carolina No. 7 jerseys, or Florida State No. 5 jerseys, or Texas A&M No. 2 jerseys, etc. etc. - and players receiving nothing.
"I can go both ways with that, because if you're selling my jersey for 90, 100 dollars, I should get some," Williams said. "But at the same time, I don't think so, because if college guys get a lot of money, more than we get already, they're going to be flashy. Probably riding around in a Jaguar or wearing a Rolex watch on or something."
While Williams, Tajh Boyd, Jadeveon Clowney, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel would stand to cash in on their celebrity, the vast majority of their teammates would not.
"Then there's going to be guys who don't have their jerseys in student stores, and they're rockin' something regular. I would get upset," Williams said. "Everything is equal and they should keep it the same way they got it now."
While we're here, Williams said his favorite stadium to visit was Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium - but he's greatly anticipating the Tar Heels' trip to Memorial Stadium on Sept. 27.
"I remember the first time I ever went to Clemson, was my freshman year (in 2011.) The ground was shaking - I thought it was an earthquake," Williams said. "You ever see the movie Batman? When the ground was shaking and everything came up? It was impressive. I think it's incredible. It's going to be a great challenge. It's going to be a great atmosphere. I can't wait to go down to Death Valley and have some fun down there."