Desperation sets in for NCAA as Congress seems slow to move forward on name, image and likeness

Three weeks before the name, image and likeness rights somehow begin for college athletes, desperation sets in. That was the global message Wednesday from a US Senate hearing on NIL.

After years of argument, wrangling, and lawsuits, it boils down to this: Congress must act to control some version of amateurism in the next 21 days. Otherwise, it looks like additional perks will hit the streets from July 1.

“We need your help,” Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few told lawmakers. “It’s not a problem that the NCAA and individual states can solve.”

This is perhaps the most compelling NIL statement from a practicing Division I coach. It’s out of his hands; it’s out of the hands of the NCAA. On July 1, at least five states will implement NIL laws that will allow athletes in those states to enjoy benefits that the other 45 states do not.

So what ?

“How do I put the cat back in the bag after July 1?” Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked Marquette law professor Matthew Mitten during the hearing.

“I don’t think you can,” Mitten replied. “I think that’s exactly the problem.”

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) does a commendable job of trying to assemble a bipartisan NIL bill through her chair of the Senate Trade Committee. It was his hearing on Wednesday. However, it is increasingly clear that a federal trade bill – if indeed drafted – will not suffice.

There is the thorny issue of disclosure. Should athletes be required to share their sponsorship contracts with… anyone? Schools have taken great measures to protect student information from the public. It is federal law. Shouldn’t schools be held at the same level in NIL? Should schools themselves even know what is the profit margin of an equestrian athlete marketing a clothing brand?

If not, does anyone trust the NCAA to decide what’s too much? Does anyone deserve to know? If not, there will essentially be no cap on NULL earnings.

Oddly, none of these questions were asked during Wednesday’s three-hour hearing.

This is just one of the big issues, and again time is running out.

NIL going forward is really about accountability – allowing athletes some form of their rights while protecting the NCAA from being sued for it. The NCAA is desperate – there is still that word – for legal protection against a class action lawsuit brought by past players suing their NIL rights.

That’s why we’re here in the first place. Ed O’Bannon saw his image on the cover of a video game and demanded compensation. A former West Virginia running back who last played in 2012 sued the NCAA for unlimited educational benefits. An appeal of this case is currently before the United States Supreme Court; it threatens to upset the separate college model of NIL.

The NCAA views these lawsuits as worrying and endless if left unprotected. Others saw them as transformative.

Don’t expect anything substantial to happen by July 1. It becomes clear.

The statement of a few made it out in the halls of Congress: Help us.

State NIL laws are similar but disparate enough to be of concern. On July 1, athletes from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico will be able to sign sponsorship deals, sell autographs, own YouTube channels and more.

Be advised: agreements have already been signed with athletes who only need the calendar to change to hit the send contracts button.

There will be surprising amounts of money. Elsewhere in the country, athletes will not have these rights unless the NCAA grants what would be a temporary waiver.

“Only Congress can adopt a national solution for the NIL student-athlete rights,” the Power Five wrote in a joint statement Wednesday. “The patchwork of state laws that begins July 1 will put student-athletes at a disadvantage in some states and create a system unworkable for others. As leaders in varsity athletics, we support the extension of NIL rights to ” in a way that supports the educational opportunities of all student-athletes, including college students in Olympic sports who made up 80% of the US team at the Rio games. We continue to work with Congress to develop a solution for NIL and expand opportunities. “

There are those who argue that the added benefits are already raging in varsity athletics – every day. There is black money flowing under the table in recruiting. NIL rights will not solve this problem. Regardless of that, there is a competitive advantage in Alabama that will not be affected in any way by NIL. Two words: Nick Saban.

Privately, the NCAA believes it can be protected from these disparate laws by a 33-year-old Supreme Court ruling in the Jerry Tarkanian case. The said “Trade Clause“saved the NCAA in 1988, allowing it to punish the former UNLV coach even though several states had due process laws in place. This would have required the NCAA’s enforcement to become more of a procedural matter. criminal.

But it will take time and lawyers (who want a 30% fee) to handle such a case. No one involved in NIL has this time.

Competitive advantage? It happens every day. States have different tax laws. There’s a reason people are leaving California in droves. Tax breaks attract businesses. Other states choose not to offer such tax breaks. The real world works with these problems.

The NCAA still comes out as the ultimate fatherly goalie. If he can’t have some control over an issue he’s ignored for too long, the less-than-real world of varsity athletics will crumble. In fact, with each day that goes by without any action being taken, the power of the NCAA is diminishing.

The NCAA has sat on the NIL bill for at least six months while waiting to see what the government does. First it was the US Department of Justice with antitrust issues. Last month, NCAA President Mark Emmert called on his organization to pass the bill.

Well, we are still waiting.

“We recruit nationally, even internationally,” said Few. “Not having the ability to compete on an equal footing with people who can give cash gifts is a disadvantage that we could not compensate for.”

It came from the coach of a small private school in Spokane, Wash., Who had just played for the national championship. Few of them also just signed the country’s No.1 player and landed the No.2 recruiting class.

Every day, few recruits against other state superpowers, some of which will have NIL rights in three weeks and others who will not.

Does the NIL disparity bring down Gonzaga? If that were the case, Texas and Miami would already win national championships with their existing competitive advantages. Despite the benefits of the weather and being in powerful media markets with Fortune 500 companies in populated states, the Longhorns and Hurricanes haven’t been in many Final Four lately.

Does NIL change all that? We need an answer quickly.

Hurry up.

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