Heisman Trophy winner, National Champion, NBA star, head coach, a history of community service that’s made him a pillar of the community — you could go on and on about the achievements of the man who has been forever cemented in Florida State Seminoles football lore.
Grasping the concept of NIL and an athlete’s worth to its fullest extent, Charlie Ward is aiming for college athletes to achieve their goals, both financially and charitably; although that is not an entirely new concept for him.
“It was a different form of being able to help organizations (using my name, image, and likeness). I was a part of the epilepsy foundation while I was in college. I did some work with them helping to promote wearing helmets for safety. I didn't get paid to do it but, hopefully, it helped the foundation to receive some funds from different people to help support (that cause.)”
He knows NIL is not just all about personal gain and understands how it can be used for good.
“There are a few guys and ladies doing that, it's not all about personal financial gain. There are some that are doing it for personal financial gain and some are doing it for others. That's the beauty of it — I believe because you do have the opportunity to help others.”
Ward is now on the board of an initiative called Rising Spear and explained what Rising Spear is about and his role within it:
“Rising Spear is essentially an arm of NIL for the FSU student-athlete. There are a couple of ways you can get involved. There are two sides, basically, connecting the student-athlete with businesses, and there is a side where businesses can invest, share their resources, engage the community and allow them to be paid for doing those community outreaches.
“I’m basically on the advisory board with a couple of other former student-athletes and our role is to help connect in some form or fashion and be an advocate for Rising Spear”
No matter which side of the fence you are on everyone can admit that the landscape for college athletes has undoubtedly changed, specifically in recruiting. Schools now have the ability to broker major deals between prospective players and businesses and will continue to do so.
“Some schools will use it as a recruiting tool I’m sure and kids will take that opportunity and at this point, that’s where it is. They can't sign anything until they sign to the college or go to the college. So most of the time promises are being made, I’m sure during the recruiting process which is an open market at this point.”
While he still maintains his passion for the sport and the advancement of it, he does feel there’s a need for some sort of regulation in the new era of college football.
“What we’re starting to see now is a lot of players don’t want to compete and if they don’t see their opportunity happening sooner then they leave. That’s something that was foreign to us, very few guys did that. I had to wait three years to play quarterback and we all had to redshirt for the most part and wait for our time to play. At that time there was accountability. If you transferred you had to sit out a year and there were no if’s, and’s, or but’s. Most guys just stuck it out and then again you didn’t have as many coaching turnovers as well that we have today. I just think there should be some accountability within all of it, not just the players but also the coaching. Coaches getting fired in the middle of the year, players leaving in the middle of the year, there should be some stipulation around finishing a season on both fronts. If people want to up and leave in the middle of the year, or if they want to fire coaches in the middle of the year, my proposal is the next staff is suspended or can’t coach until however many games the previous coach coached. If he coached six games and gets fired, whoever comes in that’s new can’t coach until the 6th game. That way we can eliminate firings in the middle of the year and players the same way. If they (the players) want to transfer after game two then they have to sit out the next year until game two. That way we can at least teach something about being committed and sticking to your commitment.”
“If they want to leave before the season or after the season then they can move, no penalty. I just feel like in the middle of the season once the games start happening there should be some penalty.”
With the state of the FSU program a conversation that’s been thrust into the spotlight, Ward maintains his relationship with and his passion for the program that he and his team took to the promised land all those years ago and gave some insight on its direction.
“They’re working as hard as anyone else as far as right team, right culture, and that's all you can ask for when it's all said and done. They’re recruiting well, trying to get the right kids, the right student-athletes that they think can help them be successful, not just on the field but in the classroom as well. I know that’s one of the things that all coaches want, is have players do well in all aspects.”
“The way we had success with transfers this past season, we’re starting to pick that up, and again, we had another good transfer portal group come in this year and it remains to be seen how they perform. On paper, we should have a solid group but the key is for returning players to continue to improve as well and buy into the culture of competition.”
Special and utmost thanks to Charlie Ward.