WASHINGTON (AP) — NCAA President Charlie Baker said Thursday he wants federal law regulating how college athletes can be compensated for endorsement deals that create a registry of deals, certification of agents and uniform contractual standards.
Baker hopes a bill can pass the House and Senate this fall, as it is unlikely to pass next year in an election cycle.
If Congress doesn’t come, Baker said, the NCAA should be prepared to at least try to clean up the name, image and likeness compensation itself.
“I think it was a big mistake on the part of the NCAA not to create a framework around NIL when they had the opportunity,” Baker said at the Future of College Athletics Summit, not far from Capitol Hill. “And I think there were too many people in college sports who thought no one rule was going to really work well for them. And what everyone has discovered is that no rules, no transparency, no accountability, no framework works well for anyone.
The NCAA lifted its ban on college athletes earning money for sponsorship deals and endorsements in 2020. With only a few general rules in place that prohibit recruiting inducements and payment for play, the laws of States have set varying standards for NIL. Booster and donor-funded collectives stepped in to be the main providers of payments.
NIL has become a new arms race in major college sports, with state lawmakers crafting legislation that gives their schools an advantage and, in some cases, protection from NCAA law enforcement.
“We are all competitors. We’re all looking for upside,” Missouri athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said during a summit session. “Name, image and likeness can be a competitive advantage.”
Baker and other college sports leaders, from presidents and chancellors to athletic directors and even coaches such as Alabama’s Nick Saban, have spent time in Washington pushing lawmakers to help regulate NIL. Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said he believed they had lawmakers’ attention.
“I think there’s a real bipartisan effort to try to get something done,” Robbins said.
Over the past few weeks, potential NIL bills have been circulating around Capitol Hill and several lawmakers — including Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) — said they plan to introduce bills. But only one bill has actually been tabled.
Baker defines the need for federal legislation as a way to protect athletes and their families from nefarious actors and a market that lacks transparency.
“And half the time a lot of what people say to student-athletes would be considered hearsay, mythology, misinformation and a whole host of other things,” said Baker, the former governor. of Massachusetts who took up his new post in March.
Baker said misinformation about NIL is to blame for a rush of athletes deciding to transfer and finding themselves with no place to play and stories of unqualified agents taking huge cuts in NIL offers from athletes.
“Congress has the ability to do state preemption. The NCAA might, in a way, be able to do that,” Baker said. “But it’s much more complicated.”
Baker said he was also concerned about the potential implications of Title IX, as NIL opportunities seem to go disproportionately to male athletes.
“I think if the agreements were to be on a registry and publicly account for some of the behavior that’s going on right now up there, that would change and that would be a really good thing as well,” Baker said.
Walker Jones, a former Mississippi football player and executive director of the Grove Collective that supports Ole Miss athletes, said he would be wary of any law requiring NIL agreements to be made public.
However, “we’re not against uniformity,” Jones said.
Baker said he spent time with the NCAA’s NIL task force, led by Florida AD associate Lynda Tealer.
“I would prefer to get a solution that deals with state preemption for many reasons and you heard some of them in there,” Baker told reporters after appearing before the panel. “But in the absence of that, we need to work our process and figure out what we would propose to do as an alternative and do that by the end of the year.”
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