Comment: Pac-12 must create its own NIL rules if NCAA doesn’t do its job

at the end of April, USC was accused by Pittsburgh manager Pat Narduzzi to tamper with the Jordan Addison star receiver, using name, image and likeness agreements in an attempt to lure the player to Los Angeles before he even entered his name into the transfer portal.

The state of Arizona reportedly landed last week Florida quarterback Emory Jones after a collective of supporters offered a NIL deal worth up to $ 75,000 and the use of a car.

That overboard transaction, which would have sent NCAA capstone cops on the first flight to Tempe just a few years ago, looked like a small potato compared to some of the lucrative deals tied to Southeastern Conference programs like Tennessee, which attracted a lot of money. intense speculation activity that a collective has pledged $ 8 million to secure the commitment of a five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava of Long Beach Poly High.

To say that college sports have entered a brave new world is to say it lightly. Fear and envy flow unchecked in the industry, so any names and numbers that are thrown into the public sphere should be taken with more than a grain of salt.

But the uncertainty about the truth hasn’t stopped Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff from delivering an unambiguous message about the current state of play to his coaches and athletic directors last week during the annual spring league fixtures. The Message No matter what other programs are doing to entice high school and bring portal talent to their campuses, don’t cross the line.

“The Pac-12 fully supports our student-athletes who are able to monetize their name, image and likeness,” Kliavkoff later told me. “However, it is important to college track and field that the NIL should be used for legitimate marketing and promotional opportunities as intended and not misused as an incentive or to pay for the game. Not applying these simple rules NIL encourages tampering and ultimately suppresses legitimate competition. “

Tired of the NCAA’s inertia, Kliavkoff made it clear that Pac-12 and other conferences will be forced to create and enforce their own rules if the NCAA doesn’t do its job.

Kliavkoff left Pac-12 meetings a day early join SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in Washington, DC, and meet with US senators to get them involved on the need for federal law to govern the NIL to replace the dozen state laws that have been chasing the NCAA. These trips to Capitol Hill had been the territory of NCAA President Mark Emmert in recent years, but with Emmert recently announcing his resignation, Kliavkoff and Sankey have entered the growing college sports leadership vacuum, perhaps a harbinger of what will be.

On the same day, the Arizona State report surfaced that it had taken Jones from Florida. A transfer from SEC to Pac-12, with a payment amount suspended in the public eye, undoubtedly underscored the purpose of their visit.

Colorado Athletic Director Rick George was struck by Kliavkoff’s frankness when he spoke to the conference football coaches.

For two years, George served as a member of the NCAA’s NIL Working Group, looking for a way to thread the needle for college athletes to profit from their fame while putting in place guardrails to protect themselves from movement towards a model. “pay for play”.

But after the NCAA lost the Alston Supreme Court decision from 9 to 0 last Junehis group’s efforts were essentially scrapped due to fears that passing new rules limiting athletes’ compensation would only call for greater antitrust scrutiny for schools (no matter if Alston’s opinion only addressed the limit. benefits related to education).

“I wasn’t really happy,” admitted George.

Collectives – groups of supporters who pool their money into a fund to help (in the least skeptical way possible) school athletes maximize their NIL marketability – are a creation of the abdication of the NCAA’s post-Alston authority. . The association enacted a “tentative” policy on July 1 that required schools to follow their state NIL laws or to develop their own policies. As always, the association’s guidance included general advice to keep player payments out of the recruiting environment.

“Of course, these collectives, there are a lot of concerns about them,” said George. “We are seeing the fruits of our lack of work, I guess, by not implementing them [working group] guidelines”.

The NCAA, feeling the heat of several eye-popping collective agreements made public across the country, stepped in on Monday, announcing that its board of directors has approved new guidelines that reaffirmed the NIL should not be used to persuade potential athletes and has clarified that collective is just a fancy word for a bunch of boosters. The association said it will apply its guidelines retroactively as well, meaning the most cheeky collectives and schools should start coming forward if they haven’t already.

USC and UCLA – which have not formed donor collectives – shouldn’t be worried, despite allegations of tampering casually thrown at new Trojan trainer Lincoln Riley. Addison did not commit to a school and was last seen on a visit to Texas.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Left, greets NCAA President Mark Emmert.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Left, greets NCAA President Mark Emmert at a hearing on student athlete compensation.

(J Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Chances are that only a few programs have reason to worry right now and they probably know who they are.

“The main starting point is probably that it’s nothing,” said Darren Heitner, a Florida-based sports attorney who advised numerous collectives this year. “It should have been clear to everyone that the NCAA’s intention was to prevent boosters from inducing athletes to choose their school. The biggest challenge is the application. Overall, they are just words until there is enforcement action. “

This announcement was both a first step and a last chance. If the NCAA does not adequately enforce situations where pay for play is disguised as NIL – money that changes hands from boosters to recruits or transfers without reasonable proof of quid pro quo – conferences will see no choice but to do it themselves. . That’s the threat, at least, and Kliavkoff has brandished it as an NCAA critic ever since he took over the Pac-12 last summer.

“The 32 conferences within Division I operate in very different models,” Kliavkoff told me. “In my opinion, conferences with similar models and similar resources need the capacity for self-governance. Whether this happens as part of the NCAA or not is simply a nomenclature. “

George said: “We love being in Pac-12. I think at some point it might get to the conferences that self-govern their schools. If so, we would agree with that. “

The NCAA cops hitting the pine-lined streets of the Southeast like in the old days will only go so far. He’ll buy the association time, but only so much. Any violation will likely lead to a corresponding lawsuit, which would likely be closed in court for years, a rather expensive tactic. Of course, such a situation would also serve as a timely reminder that one of the few ways the NCAA still provides value to schools is to address all the bankruptcy system lawsuits they have signed.

“The current NCAA enforcement model is broken,” Kliavkoff said. “Delaying the sanction for a broken rule for up to five or six years after the violation significantly reduces the deterrent effect and punishes children who went to high school or middle school when the violation occurred.”

Kliavkoff saw the lack of efficiency: Arizona has not yet been punished by the NCAA in the 2017 FBI bribery case in men’s basketball.

Using history as a teacher, seek out the NCAA to take a big leap and try to make an example from one or a few schools.

But what will happen when an athlete seeks injunctive relief against the NCAA for limiting his compensation in the NIL market? Of course, the new guidelines don’t limit third-party earning potential to a specific numerical limit. But they take out of the process the biggest leverage an athlete has ever had in negotiations – the decision as to where he will play. For the vast majority of college athletes, their value for a school drops dramatically once their commitment is secured.

The easiest way to avoid antitrust issues is federal law, which is why Kliavkoff went to Washington last week. This seems less likely with each passing month, although there remains faint hope that after the 2022 mid-term elections, drafting a bipartisan bill could become a priority.

If schools are to defend these rules in court, it will be up to them to prove that consumer demand for college sports will decline due to athletes paid by boosters in the recruitment process.

Note: Television ratings for college football and men’s basketball over the past year have shown otherwise. Millions of people still chose to watch Alabama quarterback Bryce Young play even after manager Nick Saban let slip that the youngster had quickly made around a million dollars in NIL deals.

The NCAA is willing to take the risk of further defeats in court to survive and prevent encouraged commissioners like Kliavkoff from discouraging its presidents from separating.

As long as the NCAA plays the role of antitrust shield, schools have an incentive to continue to tolerate the botched nature of the deal. The only logical reason to leave would be to form a new body made up of schools ready to welcome pay for play, thus creating legitimate competition in the university sports market with schools that prefer amateur singing and dancing.

That escape should come someday. Listening to Kliavkoff’s unabashed support for the traditional collegiate model, it doesn’t look like the Pac-12 is driving the getaway car. At some point in the future, USC Other UCLA will have to decide where they want to be.