In the Wild West of the Nile, will the NCAA crack down on groups? | sports news

Written by Ralph De Russo, AP College football writer

Eleven months after the NCAA lifted most of its restrictions on athletes who cash in on their fame, college sports leaders are trying to send a warning to schools and promoters they think have overstepped the bounds: There are still rules here and they will be enforced.

But in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA in an antitrust case, can a crackdown on so-called group brokerage deals still be possible in name, image, and likeness?

“I didn’t think the (NCAA) wouldn’t try at some point,” said Maddy Salamon, a sports attorney and former Duke lacrosse player. “This is why many lawyers are kind of giving cautious advice regarding what is and is not allowed. Especially when it comes to different combinations and deals.”

As soon as Monday, the NCAA’s Division I board of directors was expected to direct guidance to member schools to clarify the types of NIL payments to athletes that can be considered recruiting for violations.

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The NCAA does not change its rules or create new ones.

“I don’t think they even clarify the rules necessarily,” said attorney Darren Haitner, who helped draft the Florida NIL law. “My understanding is that this is just some of the individuals who formed a task force and decided after nearly 11 months that we wanted our rules to be enforced.”

The rise of backer-funded organizations known as collectivization prompted the Board of Directors in February to ask the DI Board to review the NCAA’s interim NILA policy. The concern among many in college sports was that group payments would be made to high school recruits and college athletes in hopes of transferring them to a particular school.

“Some things look a lot like pay to play,” Salamon said. “There are rules in the books within the NCAA about reinforcements. The fact that the NCAA has been reluctant to enforce anything I think has encouraged a lot of people on this issue to be a little more clear.”

Last year, the NCAA lifted its longstanding ban on athletes who earn money from sponsorship and endorsement deals. However, what remained in place were three pillars of the NCAA amateur athlete model:

– Athletes cannot be paid just to play their sport;

– compensation cannot be used to attract an athlete to a particular school;

Financial arrangements should contain some type of barter agreement under which the athlete is paid for services rendered, such as a post or appearance on social media.

The NCAA did not prohibit enhancers from participating in NIL activity. However, without detailed NCAA rules and with varying NIL laws statewide across the country, schools and the association have been left struggling to determine which activities are not permitted.

Some state laws also prohibit reinforcers from dealing with recruits, but there was little desire to enforce those laws.

The latest NCAA guidelines are intended to leave no doubt that outfits should be treated as reinforcers. Whether that leads to lawsuits is among the questions the NCAA should begin targeting groups.

Matt Winter, a sports attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, said the NCAA’s enforcement of these rules is not a clear antitrust violation.

“So the question is, under antitrust law, is the rule being enforced reasonable?” Winter said. “And in my reading of everything, the rule that’s going to be enforced is the rule that reinforcers and other third parties like teammates can’t pay athletes to stick to school.”

Heitner advises many groups and companies that have made nil deals with college athletes. He said he has emphasized to clients from the start to wait until athletes go to the school of their choice before participating.

“I don’t think it’s a collective issue,” he added. “I think it’s just about the NCAA saying, ‘Hey, we’ve always been in a situation where boosters can’t influence the decision making of athletes, especially high school athletes who haven’t gone to college yet. “

It’s unclear whether the NCAA will now begin investigating schools for potential violations committed over the past year as the NIL market has been forming.

Gabe Feldman, Tulane’s director of sports law, said the NCAA should be forward-looking.

“I think this approach is probably safer and perhaps more equitable,” Feldman said. “Hindsight is 2020, but what might be a better approach is to come up with clear rules earlier and start enforcing them so we don’t get to a situation where it might be unfair to start enforcing the rules.”

College and NCAA athletic conferences have been frequent targets of lawsuits, and a Supreme Court ruling last June left the door open for more.

Feldman said the NCAA could open itself up to more antitrust exposure by failing to enforce its existing rules. But both antitrust lawsuits and national college law enforcement are slow to move.

“That would be like a tortoise and a tortoise,” Feldman said. “Neither will be done quickly, but there are a lot of risks in the meantime.”

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