Despite Positive Vote, Don’t Expect NCAA to Permit Athletes to Make Money

It got everyone excited, the NCAA putting out a release that appeared, on a quick glance, to be pro-name, image and likeness. However, when you take a moment to read the fine print, the realization sets in that the organization has managed to swing and miss yet again.

The Board of Governors voted unanimously to “permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

But the last eight words of the opening paragraph say it all.

“In a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

Yes, we know what that means. NCAA President Mark Emmert has made his version of a college model clear: The scholarship and stipend are plenty, and kids making money would blur the line between the college athlete and the professional.

It sure looked as though the NCAA finally appeared to have succumbed to pressure, whether it was due to politicians or the big boys like Coach K and LeBron coming out in favor of the NIL. But as one head coach said to me after the news release went out at 1:08 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, it’s the classic case of them just “kicking the can down the road.”

It’s vague, unclear, the ultimate in window dressing.

It said absolutely nothing, which was purely the intent.

Will top recruit Cade Cunningham, whether he ends up in Lexington, Kentucky or Stillwater, Oklahoma, be able to make money by endorsing a local car dealership? Will he be allowed to pocket a few extra bucks via an autograph session? Can he take home a portion of his jersey sales?

We don’t know for certain yet, but I’m not betting on any of it.

What the NCAA has done is tried to pull the wool over our eyes, in an attempt to buy itself more time before it might have to go to court. That’s necessary in the wake of SB 206 (aka the Fair Pay to Play Act) and many other politicians trying to piggyback California Gov. Newsom to get legislation passed that will enable college kids to make some money off their NIL (Florida has legislation that could go into effect in 2020).

The NCAA says that the working group will continue to gather feedback through April on how to deal with the legislative environment, and the board has asked for the new rules to be created no later than Jan. 2021 from Divisions 1, 2 and 3.

Emmert put one of those working groups together, got someone who agreed with his amateurism model to head it up, deemed it the Basketball Commission, and then screwed up the recruiting calendar among several other aspects of college basketball. The rules will ultimately be altered, whether it’s because of the government or public scrutiny, and that’s when the NCAA will have a mammoth task on its hands.

“I don’t trust them to figure this out,” one head coach told me. “They never wanted this in the first place, so they’ll [include] restriction after restriction.”

“It’s going to be a disaster,” one lawyer who has been involved in several NCAA cases said. “If you can count on anything, it’s that they will screw this up.”

It’s difficult to imagine the NCAA allowing Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or, say, North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony to be able to make money for sending out a tweet about a product, or even for promoting a local party on campus.

That’s just not consistent with the collegiate model.

I mean, the board said that modernization should occur within numerous guidelines, one of which is to assure student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.

That gives the NCAA the latitude to determine what is, in fact, a “compelling reason.”

The NCAA has displayed its reactionary tendencies yet again. This issue is far more complicated than the cost of attendance, but they have had plenty of time to come up with a plan. This obscure, hazy and imprecise statement was the result.

Intended consequence.

Eventually, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward, and here’s hoping and praying it’ll get this one right. But call me skeptical, and rightfully so. I just can’t forget how long it took just to figure out that cream cheese should be allowed on a damn bagel.

MORE: Jeff Goodman’s 2019-20 College Basketball Preseason Awards