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NCAA looking to curb booster overreach with new NIL guidelines

Eleven months after the NCAA lifted "most of its restrictions against athletes cashing in on their fame," college sports leaders are "trying to send a warning to schools and boosters they believe have crossed a line: There are still rules here and they will be enforced," according to Ralph Russo of the AP. But Russo wondered if a "crackdown on so-called collectives brokering name, image and likeness deals" is "likely -- or even possible." The NCAA’s D-I BOD yesterday approved "guidance developed by a group of college sports administrators, clarifying the types of NIL payments and booster involvement that should be considered recruiting violations." The guidance is "effective immediately." NCAA enforcement staff was "directed to look for possible violations that might have occurred before May 9, 2022," but "pursue only those actions that clearly are contrary to the published interim policy, including the most severe violations of recruiting rules or payment for athletics performance." The NCAA "did not ban boosters from being involved in NIL activity." However, without "detailed NCAA rules and with state-level NIL laws differing across the country," it left both schools and the association "struggling to determine which activities were impermissible." Some state laws also "prohibit boosters from engaging with recruits," but there has been "little appetite for enforcement of those laws." Should the NCAA start "targeting some collectives," it could "trigger a new round of lawsuits against the association" (AP, 5/9).

POTENTIAL RESPONSES: USA TODAY's Paul Myerberg writes at this point, "vague guidance" from the NCAA is "almost certain to be treated in one of two ways: with deaf ears or with resentment." By "taking aim at third-party entities involved in the NIL landscape, including 'collectives' designed to create NIL opportunities for student-athletes," the NCAA could "address a possible loophole that has deeply frustrated coaches." The NCAA guidance is "so undefined -- and contains so many caveats -- that the case would seemingly need to be unimpeachable to move forward." These third-party collectives are "under the microscope," however, "especially in NIL deals that may be construed as enticing prospective recruits to sign with a specific school." The "tipping point" may come with the first NCAA investigation "targeting either a specific NIL deal or the broader actions of a specific collective." Any punishment that comes out of an investigation would "undoubtedly be followed by this litigation; when the dust clears, we may find tighter rules around NIL legislation" (USA TODAY, 5/10). THE ATHLETIC's Nicole Auerbach wrote administrators and coaches "wanted to see action," and though this is "essentially a reminder that existing rules do, in fact, exist, it should still prompt actual investigations and repercussions for bad actors" (5/9).

TOO LITTLE TOO LATE? YAHOO SPORTS' Sam Cooper wrote the booster groups that "worry the NCAA" will contend that they are "abiding by the NIL laws enacted in their respective states." So if the NCAA "really wants to pursue cases involving NIL deals," it would "almost certainly cause lawsuits in response." The NCAA had "decades to get with the times and establish its own NIL rules," but it "continued to cling to its 'amateurism' ideal" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/9). In San Antonio, Mike Finger wrote it would have "been easier, of course," if those in charge of college athletics had "prepared for what everyone saw coming and had written a set of rules that made sense." But not only have the "horses left the barn," they are "all getting paid for Instagram posts." And they are "not coming back, no matter how hard a couple of major conferences lobby Congress or how many threats the NCAA makes about cracking down on boosters" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 5/7).

CREATING COMPLICATIONS: SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said, "What’s interesting is I never hear, with an amount, what the young person -- to access that amount -- is going to have to do this list of things. And when you’re talking at large levels, you know, I know the list of things expected for me to do for my compensation. And it doesn’t seem really consistent. So that leads me to what’s really happening and it creates a concern." In Birmingham, Michael Casagrande writes the "patchwork of state NIL laws and the moving target they presented created another complication." Sankey: "The only way to alter that would be for federal legislation. That’s the reality" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 5/10).

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