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NCAA Appears To Move On Name, Image, Likeness For Athletes, But Really Does Nothing At All

It’s a whole lot of noise, that’s what it is.

NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

Yesterday the NCAA voted to make a major change in direction, voting to allowing student athletes to make money from their name, image, and likeness.

You’d get the idea this is a monumental shift from reading headlines across the nation:

NCAA to allow college athletes to market themselves, some will make millions - Business Insider

NCAA clears way for athletes to profit from names, images and likenesses - ESPN

NCAA Says It Will Allow College Athletes to Profit From Their Celebrity - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Did the NCAA really do this?

No, they did not. They put out a release designed to make it look like they’re taking action when in fact they are doing nothing.

The full release is here. I’m going to pull some pieces out of it so you can understand that this is nothing more than a crafty political move.

This release is designed to control the conversation. It’s designed to keep states from passing more laws that might bind the NCAA’s hands, such as SB206, the law recently passed in California. If the NCAA appears to take the lead on this subject, state lawmakers won’t have to. This will come of great relief to politicians everywhere as they can keep flapping their arms wildly and making long-winded speeches while doing nothing.

Let’s start with the opening paragraph:

In the Association’s continuing efforts to support college athletes, the NCAA’s top governing board voted unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.

Two bold items by me.

Voted unanimously.

It makes it sound like the NCAA is REALLY REALLY REALLY concerned about student athletes. The “top governing board” is defined as presidents and chancellors from each division - you wouldn’t vote against it on the chance that it were publicized and you were accused of being against student-athletes. That would be like hating children. It could seriously harm your career or your school.

in a manner consistent with the collegiate model

What is the “collegiate model”?

There are only three articles on the NCAA web site tagged with the topic “collegiate model”. You’d think there’d be more - but alas! - there are not. The “collegiate model” is one in which student athletes do not get paid because they are amateurs.

The release included a set of guidelines everyone should follow when they come up with these new rules:

Specifically, the board said modernization should occur within the following principles and guidelines:

Assure student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.

I honest to God have no idea what this says, accept that everyone is equal. Or something. It could be specifically design to throw your brain into a conundrum, meaning that you are already foggy and confused when you go on reading the rest of this bullshit.

Maintain the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.

Throw away line. Of course they are for student-athlete success. They don’t hate the children. They need them to make money. Lots of money.

Ensure rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.

Everyone wants fair and balanced competition. This isn’t the news, for crying out loud.

Make clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.

Make clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.

These two lines sound as if any rules that are made will severely limit a college athlete’s marketability. They certainly do not want any rules that imply that schools will be compensating - note the word is not “paying” but “compensating” student athletes directly. That would put the NCAA’s collegiate model because of the next statement.

Reaffirm that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.

If student-athletes were ever ruled to be employees they would be entitled to wages and overtime. The entire “collegiate model” would implode and college athletics as we know it would cease to exist.

Enhance principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity.

Throw away line. Makes everyone feel good.

Protect the recruiting environment and prohibit inducements to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution.

Again, this sounds good - as if it is keeping the recruiting environment clear of corruption. What it really means is - “We Don’t Want NO FREE AGENCY where players could transfer and maybe earn money in the process!”

The last paragraph of interest is as follows:

The working group will continue to gather feedback through April on how best to respond to the state and federal legislative environment and to refine its recommendations on the principles and regulatory framework. The board asked each division to create any new rules beginning immediately, but no later than January 2021.

Note what’s missing. There is absolutely ZERO in here about implementation, because they haven’t even gotten that far. They haven’t figured anything regarding how this is going to work. They only say that each divisions have just over a year to create some sort of rules.

What we have is bullshit from the NCAA. It sounds great, but in reality that’s what it’s designed to do - sound great. People buy into it because there are a lot of people who believe in it. Because of that the NCAA can easily get away with appearing to move forward when they are not.