No matter what rules the NCAA comes up with in the next six months, politicians have already forced the hand and will again
Cynicism on this issue is certainly welcomed, if not expected and encouraged. Nonetheless, the following statement is factual: The NCAA’s Board of Governors — its supreme voting body — is unanimously in favor of eventually allowing college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness.
This became the organization’s stance on Oct. 29. It should have been its stance decades prior, but finally, a bow to pressures — public, pragmatic and most importantly political — brought the NCAA to an unavoidable moment of acknowledgement, if not humility. In a billion-dollar ecosystem, college athletes are deserving of financial opportunities in a free-market society.
The concept’s so simple — and American! — but the NCAA has tried to complicate it as the organization’s initiative has trudged on largely unabated for the better part of a century.
“The Board of Governors’ action directs each of the NCAA’s three divisions to immediately consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies for the 21st century,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president at Ohio State.
To think what happened Tuesday could have been possible six months ago, let alone a year, two or 10? No way. Not even close. So a dollop of credit there. A part of me is still shocked the statement went so far … while still underpinning all potential legislation so that it’s “consistent with the collegiate model.”
“Collegiate model” is the new “amateurism.” It’s a pseudonym, a phrase that will be chirped to clichédom in the coming months by college administrators. It’s not based in any specific set of principles because the principles surrounding the collegiate model have evolved (at a glacial pace) for nearly as long as the NCAA has existed and not been identical across many of its sports.
in full force. Doesn’t matter that the Board of Governors is backing fundamental change that the public and media have been clamoring for for ages. It thinks breaking down the walls but maintaining a moat around the college-athlete experience is going to solve the problem.
It won’t. Instead of action, Tuesday brought a statement, one that’s not satisfying many of its intended targets, politicians included. And that’s who actually matters here. If you’re dismissive of what the NCAA will change next year and implement come January 2021, that’s fine. Just know that state and federal legislators are going to force the NCAA to yield.
The players will be paid. Because now there’s too much political equity to risk otherwise.
Even NCAA president Mark Emmert admitted to USA Today that lawmakers have accelerated the revamp.
“There’s no question the legislative efforts in Congress and various states has been a catalyst to change,” Emmert said. “It’s clear that schools and the presidents are listening and have heard loud and clear that everyone agrees this is an area that needs to be addressed.”
Funny how Emmert, kapellmeister of the NCAA cabal, was writing to California legislators just a couple of months ago about how that state enacting an NIL bill would bring about potential NCAA doomsday scenarios.
He’s admitting lawmakers have forced the NCAA’s hand, so why wouldn’t we think they will continue to do so?
That’s Sen. Nancy Skinner (D), the California state legislator who sparked this movement after hearing about Ed O’Bannon’s court battle with the NCAA in which a District Court judge found the NCAA was in violation of antitrust law. The NCAA’s taken a few losses in court in recent years. There is no budging with California, nor will there be in the other states that inevitably vote in such laws. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that his state “will be closely watching as the NCAA’s process moves forward to ensure the rules ultimately adopted are aligned with the legislation we passed this year.”
No half measures.
“I don’t think the NCAA would have made this statement today had it not been for California,” U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, (R-NC), told CBS Sports.
Walker’s the one who proposed a federal bill in March that aims to go over the top of the NCAA by forcing the organization to abide by a national tax code that would empower every American college athlete to sell their name, image and likeness to anyone or any business entity willing to pay for it. Walker told CBS Sports he was not assuaged by what the NCAA put out on Tuesday, comparing the stall tactic to something straight of a politician’s playbook.
“[It’s] disappointing because it’s not not like this issue just popped up on the timeline or on the scene a month or two ago,” Walker told CBS Sports. “I don’t know that I can judge their hearts or their motives. The only thing I have to go on is their past history. Judging their past history, I simply have to say it’s more lip service. But because of the public pressure, they needed to buy some time to get some ducks in a row to see where we go from here, to relieve some of that tension or pressure without really resolving anything. We’re not going to be swayed or slowed down a bit with what we believe is a civil rights violation, these [college athletes] deserve to have rights like every American.”
Walker, like most, wanted to know the when and the how of it all. The when is clear: April 2020 will finally bring NCAA bylaw recommendations and ratifications. The NCAA’s how is still very gray. It’s on a collision course with congresspeople and senators around the country. Walker’s hoping his bill can pass through the Ways and Means Committee, get through a rubber-stamp approval of the Rules Committee and then be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives approximately seven or eight months from now. If it passes in the House, the Senate would need to approve and then it would hit the desk of the President to sign into law.
Walker wants the federal statute in place by early 2021, which would match with the NCAA’s timeline. The details of each are likely to be different, though. And if the federal law passes and supersedes what the NCAA is comfortable allowing, then it gets interesting and sticky. And probably litigious. It would be a disaster for the NCAA.
“Being transparent, the NCAA has a very powerful presence here in D.C. and there will be some obstacles,” Walker said.
We should get to a point in the coming two years where college athletes are afforded enlightened and widespread rights. There arenow, with more seemingly to come, plus the gears are churning at the federal level. You can have cynicism about the NCAA’s lack of real action on Tuesday, but come April 2020, it’s going to put forth a set of rules and if those rules fall well short of what most states are expected to try and enact, let along California, then this will go to court.
“We’re going to have to wait and see what transpires with each of these legislatures,” Emmert told USA Today. “We believe very deeply in the board …that you have to have a national system if you’re going to have national championships. Doing all these things state by state is at best ineffective and most likely makes it very difficult or impossible.”
Seeing how this issue has advanced and made headway in the public space, let alone its irreversible momentum in the political arena, it’s very difficult or impossible to envision how the NCAA doesn’t eventually bow its head before falling to its knees.
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