Wild West Age of College Football: The N I L and Fast Money

Photo Credit: Adris Undead
Stillwater Ok, April, 5 (The Oklahoma Post) –

There will be a lot of changes to the 2022 college football landscape. Currently, the football recruiting trail is burning up and the atmosphere is certainly more reminiscent of the Wild Wild West than any form of scholarly path to university enlightenment.

The so-called New Era was created by the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) new 2022 approach to managing the Names Images and Likeness (NIL) rights owned by young influential student-athletes. In short-they won’t.

The NCAA, having been previously lambasted by members of Congress on an initial playbook submission in 2020 for ensuring fairness in the competition for recruiting, Division III Presidents Council chair Fayneese Miller, president at Hamline University in Minnesota believes, “The new interim policy provides college athletes and their families some sense of clarity around the name, image, and likeness, but we are committed to doing more,” Miller said. “We need to continue working with Congress for a more permanent solution.”

These new freedoms for student-athletes, and confusion for everyone follow a new policy that went into effect on July 1, 2021. “This is an important day for college athletes since they all are now able to take advantage of name, image, and likeness opportunities,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a 2021 NCAA press release.

It was in 2021 that the NCAA finally gave up the threat to ban member schools that complied with California’s Fair Pay to Play Act. Arguing that allowing student-athletes to earn money on their Names Image and Likeness would violate Section One of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Fast forward to 2022, NCAA-affiliated college athletes will no longer have the Association committing interference of the young athletes’ constitutional rights to make money. They don’t want to be flagged again for preventing young adults from participating in the American Dream, like any other 18 plus years of age U.S. citizen may do unencumbered.

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The NCAA is stuck in the middle of merging state laws, each with differing leniencies on amateurism, and all granting college athletes the right to license their own names, images, and likenesses that conform with basic principles of liberty and fairness.

“With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level. The current environment — both legal and legislative — prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve.”

– NCAA President Mark Emmert – 2021

A quandary still exists. How to guarantee the rights of young student-athletes and balance fairness amongst the competition; in America. This is a real dust storm of how fans and universities alike will somehow deal with the Name Image and Likeness issues of 2022.

The problem is that there is a different law for each state. These states have federal leaders wanting to streamline these laws at the federal level since rights are involved. Each has an interest in fairness, and Anti-Trust laws within the enterprise of the NCAA, its member schools, and the athletes.

The policy provided guidance to college athletes, recruits, their families, and member schools:

  • Individuals can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities may be a resource for state law questions.
  • College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness. (The NCAA is Hands Off as it should be)
  • Individuals can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
  • Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.

Photo credit: Jibran Smith

Unfortunately, the model is looking more like a pay-for-play model. In a recent February 2022 ESPN article, popular American journalist Dan Murphy says “the lack of a detailed NCAA policy means that states that didn’t push for NIL laws – such as Utah – now actually have fewer restrictions than states that were proactively pressuring the association to change.” Endorsement deals violate NCAA rules if they are explicitly used as a recruiting tool.

We are already seeing schools skirt the rules today; our neighbor to the south at the University of Texas have the newly formed Pancake Factory. The Pancake Factor, LLC is an independent company backed by deep-pocketed University of Texas boosters. Texas Longhorns linemen on scholarship can get $50,000 annually for use of their name, image, and likeness to support charitable causes. The program, known as “the Pancake Factory,” in reference to the pancake blocks known among linemen, will start in August 2022 burning orange is simply hiding the fact that the State University is paying high prized recruits to play college football in Austin.

Gabe Feldman, a sports law professor at Tulane says “I think the crisis may be here, but we may need some high profile athlete getting into trouble or some school getting into trouble to make congress have the urgency to act.” when speaking with ESPN’s Dan Murphy in February 2022.

But when? Sooners want to know. Caleb Williams left OU for USC. So What. This eloping was preplanned after the first chill of winter in the Oklahoma air. Caleb Williams left OU for USC to have better tax laws attributed to his $2.5 MILLION NIL deal with Beats by Dre. Well, now we have a problem. This is still amateurism, right? The answer depends on which state you live in.

Though now it seems, many schools that were not proactive with financial incentives before, are now having to make a quick change of heart. Why? It boils down to, or when the dust clears, if they don’t conform to leaving the idea of amateurism behind (in their state), the Universities risk being left in the dust when it comes to recruiting. As long as schools can justify that their deals are tailored to their current athletes…… and not future student-athletes, nothing can be done by the NCAA.

The line between professionalism and amateurism is slowly fading away. The days of student-athletes signing a letter of commitment to a University simply because of their acclaimed history are going away quickly. Maybe therein we, as fans, find our problems.

Do I think student-athletes should be compensated? I do. However, I also believe there need to be rules in place within the NCAA and more importantly financial literacy classes. If the NCAA is going to allow student-athletes to profit whatever they can, they need to show the young student-athletes how to invest, save, and spend wisely.

Would you be okay with your favorite university directly paying student-athletes to come to play for them? What do you think is the real issue with the NIL endorsements for student-athletes today? Let us know in the comments below.

(Writing by Robert Jager; editing by Robbie Robertson)

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