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NCAA Delays NIL Rules and Disagrees with Knight Commission

The time of amateur sports in big time college programs is nearing an end. NCAA President Mark Emmert chafes at the Knight Commission recommendations. College Sports is changing. Big money programs with dominant football revenues already treated differently. The commission is merely recommending acceptance of fact and regulating it.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-NCAA President Dr. Mark Emmert-Press Conference
Emmert’s challenges are building and his willingness to deal with them is at issue.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Headline Says Something Simple - The Facts Aren’t Though

So Mark Emmert, as noted in this very short ESPN article. Has announced that the Name, Image, and Likeness rules report and policy change that was promised for early 2021 has been delayed. It seems that Emmert is “dismayed and frustrated” about the delay, but the article mentions that the Department of Justice has recommended that the NCAA not vote on the proposal just yet. Of course the NCAA wants to pass NIL rules, but what are those proposed rules? It’s obvious that the federal legal beagles have some issues (and we don’t know from the article specifically what issues) exit. We also don’t have too much of a real clue as to what the rules that are being proposed are, either.

The NIL report was the impetus for looking this up and doing the research, but the lead in for the article was not NIL. The first half of it was something that many folks in the sports world seem to be trying to keep stuffed behind a flimsy Masonite (high clay content paper) closet door. The truth is that FBS football operates separately from the NCAA but leverages it for its own benefit.

The reality as to why, potentially, that Emmert has largely dismissed the recommendations and findings of a major report regarding the reform of the business and organizational model of big time, big money college football really needs to be examined. It might be time to look at just what is being so casually dismissed, and require some better answers than pipe dreams of amateurism and student athletic purism.

The Pressure and Evidence Build

The Knight Commission is a highly respected non-profit organization dedicated to reform and improvement in collegiate athletics. Their dedication to the student athlete has resulted in recommendations regarding more than a few issues within college sports. In 2020 they tackled what has to be the most difficult of all of the subjects within collegiate athletics; amateurism versus professionalism. This is especially true in Division 1 FBS and Basketball. If you wish to read about it, (Note: PLEASE READ IT. The report is not written in some turgid academic prose, it’s in plain English with easy to understand charts and graphs. The Appendix 1 really should be a part of the recommendation, so read it, too.) We are providing a link, here.

This readership has heard Gobbler Country pose some questions regarding the high big money end of collegiate athletics, and football in particular. The new state laws mentioned in our posting regarding Name, Image, and Likeness gives the collegiate football fan a strong indicator that change is coming, and its impulses are not an internal desire for reform, but external pressures from legislatures, and eventually Congress and the high courts. The Transfer Portal was already a response to court decision.

Regardless of the direction of the demand for change, and now that is on multiple fronts, the pressure is building on the NCAA and Collegiate Football Conferences. They will eventually be required to make major updates to their operating plans and league functions. The leading wedge is the mushrooming revenues and the disparities resulting in something that isn’t supposed to be a profit making enterprise. The principle contention (but not the exclusive one) seems to be player compensation, especially as it compares to coaching and administrative pay. As it stands, now, the players get relative peanuts, while coaches pull down six and seven figure annual salaries with contract guarantees, and administrators are pocketing coach level money.

This situation is a simmering pot of resentment stew that is fixed to begin to boil and eventually burn. The Knight Commission recommendation is recognizing that reality, and offering well thought out actions that could help to save truly amateur collegiate athletics, and allow for transparency and regulation at the big money levels.

A key section of the report states their primary problem:

The Far-Reaching Impact of FBS Football’s Ascendancy

In the past 15 years, FBS football revenues have grown exponentially. This rapid growth has provided benefits but also has created unintended consequences, including perceived inequities between limited college athlete benefits and lavish coaching compensation, legal and legislative challenges to NCAA bylaws that restrict athlete rights and opportunities, erosion of the historical notion of the “amateur” college athlete, and, more broadly, questions as to the role of intercollegiate athletics in higher education.

In addition to that, the report also notes that the FBS and Division 1 Basketball differ and football has become the driving force, even if not all Division 1 schools participate in football. We aren’t going to cut block quote after block quote out of the report, but it’s fair to say that the current situation has attracted some serious attention and the recommendations in the report are serious.

Casual Dismissal is Whistling Past the Graveyard

The Emmert question; “[o]ne of the big issues for me, and I know for you, isn’t whether or not sports produce big revenue, it’s what do we do with the revenue[?]” begs a truthful answer that Emmert is basically unwilling to answer, himself. While there is a large amount of overhead associated with big name college sports, the compensation level of the various groups within that false economy is wildly varying, and not completely transparent.

If you want to see how the money structures take a look at the percentages of the expense totals from 2018 for Virginia Tech. Note that scholarships to the athletes is only 13% of the total spent that year, and that’s all athletes not just football and basketball players. The revenue stream graph is even more interesting. Remember that 2018 was just the infancy for the ACC Network the 2019-2020 percentages are probably going to be even more weighted toward the already massive 29% of Media revenues.

Emmert’s tune being whistled might well be the O’Jay’s “For the Love of Money”. If you understand even rudimentary accounts payable and receivable, it’s very easy to see that paying for student athlete educations is a very minor portion of college sports, and becoming less so as time wears on. It’s not that Emmert’s revenues would decrease, it’s that his expenses, laid off on the NCAA for the catalog of things listed that the NCAA provides will suddenly become overhead for his organization presumably the big bucks semi-pro league proposed - that defacto exists now. As the report shows, FBS and the Power 5 conferences operate outside of the NCAA with the exception of those coverages and certain student-athlete oriented regulations.

The Proposal Doesn’t Do Away with Amateur Collegiate Sports

It is very important to remember that these recommendations do not do away with Collegiate sports. It’s a path to regularizing and regulating what is already occurring at a rapid pace. Splitting big time football from the NCAA would allow their proposed NCFA to govern itself, arrange for whatever revenue sharing, retention, and recruiting rules and provide much needed transparency. It would also offer smaller programs, or programs that are struggling to pay for all of the overhead, to pull back to more rational levels for their own set of expectations.

Again, please read the report. Look at the charts, and understand that College Football (and college sports in general) are changing at an accelerating pace, and eventually unless the NCAA and the Conferences begin the process of separating the big money programs into their own association, that external pressure (and legislation) will do it for them.

It’s food for thought...