Emmanuel Acho (L) and Dusty Dvoracek. (Fox Sports Press Pass and ESPN Press Room.) Emmanuel Acho (L) and Dusty Dvoracek. (Fox Sports Press Pass and ESPN Press Room.)

There have been lots of debates about USC Trojans’ quarterback Caleb Williams this year. Some of those have been about his play for the Trojans overall, while others have been discussion of his potential status as the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and others still have been about the idea of him returning to school in 2024 if he’s unhappy with who gets that No. 1 pick (even with some bizarre discussions of him demanding an equity stake in the team picking No. 1, something currently impermissible under NFL rules). But one of the strangest still came from Fox Sports’ Speak co-host Emmanuel Acho Saturday, with a suggestion that Williams should sit out the rest of the CFB season:

This prompted a strong criticism from ESPN game analyst and SiriusXM radio host Dusty Dvoracek:

There’s some notable context here. The idea of likely top NFL picks potentially sitting out the rest of a college football season has come up quite regularly, especially around bowl games. And that definitely has happened quite a bit, although not with a likely No. 1 overall pick.

But that hasn’t really happened this early in the season. And sitting out large parts of a season has more often been about NCAA violations, drug test violations, conflicts with coaches or other factors not specifically about injury risk. And there are potential ways to mitigate injury risk with insurance policies, either loss-of-value (for potential top picks like Williams) or critical injury insurance.

Another factor present now that wasn’t before the last couple of years is the impact of name, image, and likeness. As noted in a recent Yahoo Sports piece from Dan Wetzel, Williams currently has known NIL deals with Fanatics, Neutrogena, Beats by Dre, PlayStation, Athletic Brewing Company and AC+ION Water, and appears in national television commercials for Nissan’s Heisman House and Dr. Pepper’s Fansville. He may have other NIL deals as well.

Those NIL deals probably have some provisions on Williams playing at least the majority of this year. (There could be bowl game carveouts or tradeoffs.) So a decision to sit out could have negative “business decision” aspects for him (even before you get to the certain talking head debates on what that says about his leadership, and perhaps even some changes in how NFL teams view him). And the NIL deals (and potential new NIL deals) do actually give Williams some leverage if he wants to stay in college for another year. (Whether he will actually do so is far from clear, but it seems unlikely that will be about a demand for equity.)

But the NIL deals also make Acho’s take seem a little more out there than it might have a few years ago. There, it still would have been a wild, provocative, and unlikely take. But it would have been one with a more clear “business decision” case that way than currently exists.

[Dusty Dvoracek on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.