The NCAA, had it been a lean and intelligent organization, would have come to terms with NIL before the various states began to do it for them.
Instead, it pleaded for Congress to intervene and to set a national standard, but so far, Congress has been reluctant to act.
Could that change soon?
Congress is no better than the NCAA on most days and getting the parties to actually do useful things for the people they represent is always a long shot. However, a new attempt is under way and, significantly, former Auburn football coach turned Republican senator Tommy Tuberville, who is pushing this along with his Democrat colleague Joe Manchin, probably understands the issues as well as anyone currently in Congress.
The PASS Act would create a national standard for NIL, which would be very helpful. The senators correctly argue that with 50 different standards and state legislators that are happy to pander to fan bases full of potential supporters and donors, it’s inevitably a race to the bottom. You can imagine the states of Florida and Tennessee getting into essentially a bidding war, and who would win that?
Either Texas or Kentucky. For a while, anyway.
According to ESPN, “the Pass Act would also require schools to provide health coverage for sports-related injuries for eight years after athletes finish their college eligibility. Athletic departments that generate more than $20 million annually would also be required to cover out-of-pocket medical costs for two years after an athlete’s playing career. Athletic departments that generate more than $50 million annually would have to cover four years of out-of-pocket expenses.“
Okay, but generating $20 or $50 million is not the same thing as those amounts in profit and pretty much every program loses money. You hope losing money is factored in.
Health care benefits are also to be mandated for defined periods after leaving school, but there are questions here too: would, say, Jayson Tatum get the same benefits that Spencer Hubbard would? One is an NBA All-Star worth millions; the other is a walk-on. What would be the point of that?
Then there are proposed arrangements for agents and - wait for it - a federal prohibition on transferring, without sitting out a season, for three years.
Transfers should be left for the NCAA to deal with. That seems a bit much.
Here’s something else to look for as amendments and riders are attached: will Congress try to regulate realignment?
The representatives from SEC and Big Ten states presumably would say no, but many others might push it. We don’t think it’s included, but if you’re going to regulate transfers and health care, why not go for gold on realignment too?
It’s also worth noting that new NCAA President Charlie Baker comes to his post after a successful political career. It’s entirely possible that he’s exactly the right person at exactly the right moment.
Also worth noting: this is not the only bill aimed at the NCAA. Senators Corey Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran have another and there may be more for all we know So negotiations may be particularly involved.