Let’s remove the NCAA-speak from the Board of Governors’ vote to provide athletes with the opportunity to be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness.
Here’s what really happened in Atlanta on Tuesday:
A starting gun was fired on an issue of momentous consequence for college sports, and …
We don’t know where the process will end, how long it will last, who will be involved or what the rules-of-engagement will be.
On the broadest level possible — almost a theoretical level — college athletes now have the opportunity to profit from marketing and promotional opportunities.
To sign autographs for cash.
To have their image on a billboard.
To lend their name to a sports camp.
But it’s entirely possibly that some NCAA divisions and some conferences within those divisions and some schools within those conferences within those divisions won’t agree to the new world order.
“The NCAA took a big step today by allowing us to change the bylaws,’’ Colorado athletic director Rick George told the Hotline. “And that’s something to celebrate.
“We’re still in process of what that looks like moving forward.”
George would know better than most: He’s a member of the NCAA working group that recommended the step taken by the governing board.
That working group will spend many months on the details.
Will the 5-star tailback recruit be allowed to accept cash for marketing opportunities while in high school?
Will the starting point guard on a top-10 team be allowed to earn unlimited cash in exchange for promoting a local sports bar?
The NIL rules ultimately deemed appropriate for the Football Bowl Subdivision (major college) could differ from those adopted by teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
And within the FBS, the rules could vary: What works for Pac-12 football programs might differ from what works for Mountain West football programs.
“We want to make sure we have the right principles in place and make sure the right framework is in place that’s fair and equitable for all institutions,’’ George said.
“Over next several months, that’s what we’ll be focused on.”
The NCAA wants new rules in place no later than January 2021, but legal challenges could lay waste to the timeframe.
Make no mistake: The decision to begin the process of athlete compensation doesn’t eliminate the prospect of a legal challenge and lengthy court fight.
The Board of Governors laid down a set of principles requiring that any changes fit within a framework “consistent with the collegiate model.” That’s a potential source of conflict, because the Pay-to-Play law that passed in Sacramento recently — and is the model for legislation in other states — creates an unregulated market for NIL.
State Senator Nancy Skinner, who authored the law, tweeted: “California has made it clear that we won’t accept any arbitrary limitations on college athletes’ right to their name, image, and likeness.”
The NCAA amateurism model is all about arbitrary limitations.
Let’s not ignore the big picture: Until now, the NCAA stood in complete opposition to NIL compensation in any form. The swell of public support and legal challenges forced a pivot.
“This topic has been in the news for quite some time, and certainly since the California decision and other decisions on the horizon,’’ said Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano, who chairs the Pac-12’s executive board.
“Our goal with conferences and the NCAA is, instead of having 50 states with 50 different rules … is to allow the stakeholders — the divisions as well as the individual conferences — to come up with a set of standards that apply evenly and fairly to all universities.
“And that’s important in the Pac-12 when you’re looking at 12 schools in multiple states. The worst thing would be to have legislation coming from different states about how we operate.”
This is progress, for sure. But it’s progress without specifics. And in this case, the specifics are everything.