To its credit, there is one thing the NCAA does really, really well: abdication in the face of responsibility.
The Division I Council voted to recommend the Division I Board of Directors adopt an interim policy that would suspend amateurism rules related to name, image and likeness. The board meets Wednesday.
… With the NIL interim policy, schools and conferences may choose to adopt their own policies.
If this sounds familiar…
Most athletic department officials around the country assumed for much of the past year that the NCAA or Congress would eventually prescribe a set of nationwide rules to guide them through the specifics of what athletes can do and provide the infrastructure needed to enforce those rules. But attempts to pass a federal NIL law remain bogged down by partisan disagreements. And a previous, more detailed NCAA proposal that was nearly two years in the making was fully derailed just last week by increased concern that blanket restrictions on how players could make money could violate antitrust laws. In a confidential memo written late last week, the NCAA’s working draft of the interim NIL policy acknowledged that “the current environment does not allow for as much guidance as the membership prefers and to which it has become accustomed.”
As it became increasingly clear in recent weeks that help was not coming from above, schools were left scrambling to sort through the details themselves.
… it’s only because they employed the same strategy in dealing with last year’s pandemic crisis. And while an argument can at least be made that COVID was unexpected, that’s not the case this go ’round. Anyone with half a brain could see the train wreck coming. And, boy, it’s gonna be a doozy.
By way of example, let’s dive down a rabbit hole. Louisiana’s state law, which is expected to be signed by the governor sometime this week, prohibits college athletes from endorsing alcohol. It’s clear that means an LSU football player could not appear in a Budweiser commercial, but could he endorse a local liquor store that also sells soft drinks and snacks? Could he endorse a Baton Rouge bar that doubles as a pool hall? What about a restaurant that serves food along with alcohol? Where do you draw the line? Schools will have to make the initial decision.
When an athlete (and potentially their agent) disagrees with a school’s decision to prevent them from cashing in on a certain opportunity, disputes could turn awkward quickly. Major disagreements will likely have to be resolved through the legal system. Rolling out the lawyers to battle your own athletes will be an unpleasant experience for schools and teams that are constantly locked in a hyper-competitive battle to recruit and retain talent.
But it won’t be the NCAA’s problem. Well played, Mr. Emmert.