USA TODAY International Edition

Questions arise after NCAA’s latest on NIL

- Paul Myerberg

Ten months after legislatio­n related to name, image and likeness went into effect, efforts by the NCAA to retroactiv­ely police existing NIL deals may only further inflame tensions over an issue that has created seismic change to the amateur model.

“Today, the Division I Board of Directors took a significant first step to address some of the challenges and improper behaviors that exist in the name, image and likeness environmen­t that may violate our long- establishe­d recruiting rules,” Georgia President Jere Morehead said in a statement.

Good luck with that. The bell has already been rung. At this point, vague guidance from the NCAA is almost certain to be treated in one of two ways: with deaf ears or with resentment.

“We’ve got no governance” on the issue, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said last week.

That’s not to say the primary recommenda­tion endorsed Monday by the Division I board of directors is misguided.

By taking aim at third- party entities involved in the NIL landscape, including “collective­s” designed to create NIL opportunit­ies for student- athletes, the NCAA could address a possible loophole that has deeply frustrated coaches now responsibl­e for never- ending recruiting pitches designed to keep the best players on campus through the duration of their eligibilit­y.

That still leaves far more questions than answers. For one, what sort of behavior would trigger an NCAA investigat­ion – in other words, just how egregious would a hypothetic­al “pay- forplay” NIL package need to be to put a program under the microscope? And would anything unearthed by an investigat­ion be met with a lawsuit?

In the end, the questions may be rhetorical. What can the NCAA do? Nothing, possibly. What penalties could they issue? Maybe none.

Instead, the backward- looking guidance may serve two purposes for the NCAA. One would be to make an on- therecord statement regarding collective­s, which have sprouted up at programs across the country, with each deal conceivabl­y reviewed by a school’s compliance staff. The second, and the more important, would be to establish a dialogue for NIL deals going forward.

For now, the conversati­on around NIL centers on three questions birthed

from the guidance provided by the NCAA.

Is there a serious threat of enforcemen­t?

The NCAA will only “pursue the most outrageous violations that were clearly contrary to the interim policy adopted last summer,” Morehead said. In terms of the eligibilit­y of student- athletes, “only the most serious actions that clearly violate the previously published interim policy would have eligibilit­y implicatio­ns.”

In an obvious circumstan­ce of rules violations, the governing body could pursue an investigat­ion that touches on programs, individual coaches and the student- athletes in question. Even then, the NCAA guidance is so undefined – and contains so many caveats – that the case would seemingly need to be unimpeacha­ble to move forward.

These third- party collective­s are under the microscope, however, especially in NIL deals that may be construed as enticing prospectiv­e recruits to sign with a specific school.

How will possible rule violations come to light? Simple, the NCAA said: “Schools are reminded of their obligation to report any potential violations through the traditiona­l self- reporting process.” Again, good luck with that.

What will this do to collective­s?

It might lead universiti­es to ensure these groups don’t violate one of the basic principles of recent NIL legislatio­n. In the interim policy issued last June, the NCAA maintained “the commitment to avoid pay- for- play and improper inducement­s tied to choosing to attend a particular school.”

The NCAA is less concerned over the NIL packages being handed out to current student- athletes. But there is obvious worry that deep- pocketed booster groups are creating financial packages to entice traditiona­l recruits or sway active players enrolled at another school.

Individual boosters or larger collective­s found to have provided these inducement­s will face a disassocia­tion from the school, though booster groups are not subject to NCAA penalties and do not need to cooperate with any NCAA investigat­ion.

But if a program is found to have worked alongside a collective to entice a prospectiv­e recruit, that could be met with a stern NCAA reaction.

What changes in the interim?

Nothing. Hypothetic­al “pay- for- play” deals have been prohibited since NIL came into existence. Collective­s, businesses and other third- party groups that stayed within the lines of current NIL rules don’t need to change a thing, meaning schools that have clearly benefited from these rule changes can continue to use NIL to their advantage.

The tipping point may come with the first NCAA investigat­ion targeting either a specific NIL deal or the broader actions of a specific collective. Last year’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling in NCAA v. Alston found that NCAA restrictio­ns on student- athlete compensati­on violated antitrust law.

Any punishment that comes out of an investigat­ion would undoubtedl­y be followed by this litigation; when the dust clears, we may find tighter rules around NIL legislatio­n.

Conversely, lawsuits that will inevitably follow any NCAA penalties may loosen or even obliterate the already opaque guardrails put in place by last year’s interim policy.

 ?? WILLIAM HOWARD/ USA TODAY ?? The NCAA made more NIL recommenda­tions Monday.
WILLIAM HOWARD/ USA TODAY The NCAA made more NIL recommenda­tions Monday.

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