Ben Solak, an NFL writer for The Ringer, is one of many recruiting junkies looking for the rarest of goods.
“I have a friend, Derek Klassen at Football Outsiders, who also does quarterback charts. I don’t know how long Twitter directs keep their history, but if you open records with Derek over the years, you’ll see some bad things,” Sulak said. “” you are me I can not Searching for Troy vs. ULM. Do you know anyone who has this? Or maybe, “I don’t even want to watch this. This is a bad quarterback, and no one will actually care if I don’t get his twelfth match. But I am committed to this, so do you have a tanner for me against Iowa?”
Solak is not excluded. Ask anyone who covers college football, especially the NFL draft, and they’ll remember back deals for unlisted YouTube videos and secret Google Drive links full of smuggled All-22s. It has become its own micro-economy, swelling in size as draft turns into a year-round spectacle. Leaks happen all the time. Perhaps, said Solak, someone knows a guy on the DI school video team, who passes them all 22 of the program’s latest games. This agent places their newly acquired goods into the commerce block, triggering a chain reaction of services, treaties and orders across an entire subculture of avid network experts.
“Once you get enough of these people, you get a market,” Solak explained. “Someone sends a direct message and says, ‘Well, I have these four games in Georgia, you have six Boston College games. I will download and send these copies to you, and you will download and send your copies. ‘This is how it happens.’
It must be said that the All-22 can be obtained easily – without the need for a gimmick – if all you care about watching are NFL games. The university sells subscriptions to NFL Plus Premium, where anyone can watch All-22. (It costs $79.99 annually.) But college football is a notorious “laissez-faire” system. There is no central governing body that adjudicates licensing rights – those decisions are left to a group of individual conferences. When does the tape Leak, it’s a very limited resource. Nate Tice, who covers football for The Athletic, only managed to reveal two games from the All-22 North Dakota with Trey Lance choosing the eventual first round in the run-up to the 2021 draft.
“A month before enlisting, I got my third match, and of course a week before I won another four,” Tice said with a laugh. “It didn’t matter at that point. I had already scored the talk about how much I liked him.
“It’s funny, people tweet the same plays during the draft process, because that’s the only game people have access to. Not because it’s the best showcase of a potential client’s talent, but because it’s the game they can save and tweet.”
Tice said he developed the majority of his 22 relationships by befriending other film habits in the media. He does not establish direct relationships with the original dropouts and has no interest in doing so. (“I don’t ask, I don’t want to know anything.”) But what Tice may not know is that the art of the secret tape trade goes beyond draft media. In fact, those working in college football programs participated in their own version of the barter system for decades, until the system was formalized in 2020. Adam Niemeyer, the University of Cincinnati’s director of football video, said he was instructed to share all 22 footage From Bearcats games with other schools in the American Athletic Conference. But for programs outside the department? Those negotiations were completely off the records, yet they still happen all the time.
“I sent our games to Temple, UCF, USF, and all the other teams in the conference, but they weren’t allowed to turn around and send my stuff to anyone. Yet every video coordinator in America was doing that,” Niemeyer said. “After the season was over, the coaches would come in and say, ‘Hey, we want to study the USC attack. Can you get it?’ I have to call someone in Pac-12 who wasn’t USC, and say, ‘Hey, can you send us a USC movie?’” “This was all through the connections that I built. We have Facebook groups and all sorts of things.”
The practice Niemeyer describes became largely extinct in 2022. Mike Ortiz, vice president of film operations for Pac-12, and Tony Buyniski, chief technology and official services director for the Big Ten, did the impossible and broker consensus in college football. The couple wanted to legalize the tape trade and hit the stage at the annual Las Vegas College Video Staff Conference in 2020 with a simple step — each program will make the All-22 program available, using a sports analytics company called Catapult, for any university staff who wants to take a look.
“We said, ‘Let’s stop the backroom dealings,’ and let’s show you the stats of what you’re going to get with a subscription,” Ortiz said. The pair argued that if everyone participated, all schools would have access to much more tapes than they had in the past. Miraculously, Ortiz and Buyniski managed to include all of FBS’ 130 teams — after laying out some details.
But like many respected and exclusive establishments, owners of All-22 footage tend to be punitive when their treasures leak into the possession of those not in the club. Nobody takes any seriousness Consequences by storing your game tape, but if it is posted on social media – by someone not connected to a school – you may face a quick and effective DMCA complaint. In fact, these are the exact march orders given to people like Niemeyer.
“Everyone wants to take apart the movie project. These people have work to do. So whatever hands they have on the movie is great, I can’t stop you,” he said. “But if you see some of these things in the wild, a lot of us are told to copy the link of anything you see and send it to the catapult.”
Tice was one of those victims. In early May, he tweeted some clips of the All-22 and was quickly reprimanded for being suspended from the podium. Tice was caught off guard; He reached out to Catapult, the two settled the dispute, and a company representative asked why something as unimportant as a wide-angle college football tape was being punished with a social media blackout. Is it a media rights issue? What does it have to do with conference brands?
No, not really. “He said, ‘Some coaches are weird,'” Tice said.
It’s a must-hear all the time in the weird NCAA world; Instructors have a great deal of power, and if they are obsessed with keeping their schemes under wraps, they will gladly muster their legal force against anyone in possession of that precious payload. That’s upsetting for someone like Solak, who has built his career through the crucial meltdowns of possibilities. Shouldn’t it be easier?
Ortiz doesn’t think Sulak’s dream is out of the question. After all, he just managed to broker a pledge with the entire FBS ecosystem. The impossible has already happened.
“It would be something a little more formal,” Ortiz said when asked if he could envision a future in which more regular people would be given passage to the college football tape repository. “We’d go through the front door and say, ‘Here’s how to use the film,’ and look at any liquefaction, and the gray areas that come from that.”
Until then, Sulak, Tess, and everyone else out there will be satiating their soccer addiction with a diet full of stolen movies. The season is underway, and second-round quarterback Devin Leary of North Carolina State plays against Charleston Southern on Saturday. This game would definitely be hard to track down, but recruiting addicts learned to rely on each other, rather than anyone else. Solidarity forever.
“We are in this brotherhood,” Sulak said. “If you need something, ask for something.”