I know I’ve been met with varying degrees of skepticism and frustration for daring to suggest that the NCAA would be wise to head various legislatures off at the pass with regard to all the bills regarding NIL rights for college athletes by attempting to negotiate a compromise instead of following its usual path of maximal opposition.
Why do so? Well, to start with, there’s the obvious legal threat if the organization continues to dig in its heels.
In the end, the NCAA’s sustained efforts to maintain rules barring athlete endorsement deals is a foolish move that will back the trade association into a legal corner with irreversible damages. NCAA rules, which are a product of the agreement among member colleges, are reasonably subject to antitrust challenge. If the NCAA were to truly attempt to ban member colleges for complying with state laws that require colleges to allow athletes to engage in free-market transactions, the NCAA would very likely be found to have engaged in an illegal conspiracy to restrain.
Beyond that, there may be a bigger threat — state legislatures could up the ante.
Moreover, even leaving aside the antitrust risk, if the NCAA does not reform its athlete endorsement rules, certain states may pass laws to require member colleges to leave the NCAA, much as a New Jersey legislator seems to propose in the latest iteration of that state’s bill.
If several states make it a violation of their own laws to remain a member of a trade association that concertedly denies athletes the right to control their own likenesses, the NCAA could reasonably lose its monopoly power over the college sports industry as new legislation is enacted.
It would be both ironic and fitting if Mark Emmert’s stubborn dumbassery led to the dismantling of the organization he leads.