The Pac-12 has submitted a proposal that would allow college athletes to use their names, images and likenesses to “promote their own non-athletic business ventures,” the conference said in a news release Friday.
In light of the pending Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, the Pac-12 idea appears to represent an incremental step by college sports leaders to adopt bylaws allowing players to make money off their name, but with a qualifier. Pac-12 deputy commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said athletes would be able to promote themselves without identifying themselves as an athlete.
Under current NCAA rules, athletes are prohibited from accepting any money for or permitting the use of their name or picture to advertise or promote directly the sale of a commercial product or service. The eligibility of athletes is not affected if they participated in the promotional activity prior to enrollment and meet certain conditions.
The Pac-12 submitted the NILs idea to the NCAA last week as part of the Power Five’s proposals for consideration at the NCAA convention in January. The conferences have until Nov. 15 to amend or finalize their concepts for proposals. NCAA autonomy allows the 65 schools from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, plus Notre Dame, to create their own legislation that the rest of Division I can elect to follow.
Zaninovich said the NIL proposal attempts to modernize college sports and make athletes more similar to the entire student body. Zaninovich cited as examples cases in the 1990s of Jeremy Bloom being unable to play football at Colorado while accepting ski endorsements, and UNLV basketball player Greg Anthony facing NCAA restrictions from his T-shirt business.
“We run into a bunch of situations where kids want to write books on something completely unrelated to their athletic experience or develop an app that has nothing to do with athletics, and they have to establish an alias and it doesn’t make intuitive sense,” Zaninovich said.
Zaninovich said the idea must be formulated into a detailed proposal and the intention is to get national feedback. He said the idea is not to allow athletes to be paid off their athletic success, such as for autographs. He compared this proposal to the NCAA rule change years ago that allows athletes to have jobs if they demonstrate they’re actually performing work and getting paid at the going rate.
Why has restricting non-athletic business ventures even been in place all these years? “I think it comes back to some of the old stories around competitive improprieties around recruiting, is my guess,” Zaninovich said. “I think that will be the same concern by some people when we start discussing this and they’ll say that’s fraught for the opportunity for impropriety. I think our stance is, hey, we’ve got to think about this differently now.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference does not support the proposal at this time. “I’d like to actually sit down and read it further,” Sankey said. “I’ve seen the headline and seen a bit of it. Obviously, that captures attention given some of the ongoing legal activity. It will be a topic of conversation. It’s not something we’ve sponsored. I would not indicate support at this time.”
Big Ten associate commissioner Chad Hawley called the Pac-12 NIL proposal “a really interesting one.” He stopped short of commenting further until there’s further discussion.
Some other proposals that are either for Power Five autonomy or shared governance for all of Division I:
* The Pac-12 suggests establishing an eight-hour period between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. where athletic practices cannot be required. Currently, the NCAA restricts practices between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The rule proposal would not impact games between those hours, raising the question: Aren’t games at those hours a time demand issue? “I think that’s fair, but I think we can all recognize there are many, many more practices across sports than there are contests and we have contest limitations,” Zaninovich said. “I guess we don’t want to let perfect be the enemy of good here. We’re trying to make progress.” My translation: TV networks pay a lot of money for games and get to decide when they start.
* The Pac-12 proposes a three-week “discretionary period” for college athletes immediately after the conclusion of their seasons. Zaninovich said the Pac-12 is trying to focus on out-of-season time demands because athletes are providing feedback that in-season is working well.
* The Big Ten wants to specify that athletes’ one day off required per week cannot be on a travel day from athletic participation. The NCAA currently allows the day off to occur on a travel day. “What you hear from student-athletes is that’s not really a day off,” Hawley said. “A day off is when they have time to do their own thing.”
* The ACC proposes requiring any FBS school’s camp to be held on the school’s campus and limit FBS coaches and football personnel to working only at those camps. This is the attempt to end satellite summer camps, which have become common in recent years and drew lots of attention by Michigan last summer. The SEC made a similar proposal, writing that new legislation “should improve the image of the sport by minimizing the perception that coaches seek employment in camps and clinics for the purpose of having access to, and perhaps, obtaining an advantage in the recruitment of particular football prospects.”
Sankey, the SEC commissioner, said there is support from FBS conferences other than the SEC and ACC to end satellite camps. “The question is whether there’s majority support within the Football Bowl Subdivision,” said Sankey, who has said the SEC will adopt satellite camps if the rule doesn’t pass.
Aren’t most football camps on campus by nature recruiting camps? “We’ve allowed some of that by agreement,” Sankey said. “Those are about involving people on campus. There’s exposure to an institution involved. There’s relevant reasons we have those camps on university campuses beyond some notion of recruiting, as opposed to fly in, fly out, see people, and move on to the next stop. That’s a much different model.”
The SEC proposes to prohibit schools from using post-signing recruiting and publicity exceptions for recruits who only sign financial aid agreements prior to the National Letter of Intent signing date. The NCAA allows football recruits who plan to enroll in January to sign financial aid agreements with colleges as early as Aug. 1 of their senior year. That created cases of unlimited contact by coaches who ended up attending other schools since financial aid agreements are non-binding.
Wide receiver Josh Malone signed financial aid agreements with four schools before ultimately going to Tennessee. Offensive lineman Matt Womack signed financial aid papers with LSU but later de-committed and signed an NLI with Alabama, rendering some of LSU’s contact with Womack impermissible. The SEC gave LSU a two-year ban from signing early enrollee recruits to financial aid agreements.
“Unfortunately, some institutions have used these Bylaw exceptions to pressure uncommitted prospects to sign institutional written agreements in order to gain a recruiting advantage,” the SEC proposal says. “This pressure has been especially prevalent in football, because of the sport’s more restrictive recruiting rules. The legislation was never intended to apply in this manner” and the proposal seeks to close “loopholes.”
* The NCAA Council, which oversees legislation for Division I, has proposed changes to how academic misconduct is defined. According to the NCAA, the proposal would require schools to publish and follow an academic misconduct policy for all students; define impermissible academic assistance; and determine when a student worker’s involvement would be considered academic misconduct. The NCAA enforcement staff has been tackling more academic fraud cases lately. The NCAA is currently being sued over the North Carolina academic scandal.
* The Big 12 has proposed letting agents negotiate with Major League Baseball teams on behalf of high school and college baseball players. This would finally let baseball prospects have an agent in the negotiating room with Major League Baseball teams — something that widely occurs now against NCAA rules. For years, the NCAA’s “no agent” rule has severely impacted the eligibility of many college baseball players. Countless players have been suspended or lost their eligibility entirely because their “advisers” got caught negotiating with teams, even though that’s the industry norm.
Under the Big 12 proposal, “you could have your parents and some type of representation to help you through that process,” said David Flores, Big 12 director of student-athlete support services. “The issue is once that process ended, that representation would have to end immediately. There couldn’t be any type of agreement for future representation. This is solely to have representation on the front end.” So agents would work pro bono with the hope of landing the player at a future date? “That would be the thinking,” Flores said.
Baseball players are currently allowed to have an adviser to discuss the merits of a proposed contract. But the NCAA instructs players that the adviser can’t directly contact pro teams. In reality, it’s widely known that agents often do negotiate for college baseball players, who lie to the NCAA when they’re asked about it.
* The Big 12 has proposed letting schools pay for up to four family members on a recruit’s official visit. This is an all-sports proposal that would increase the number to four family members per prospect. Currently, a prospect and a parent/guardian can have their transportation, lodging, three meals per day and “reasonable” entertainment expenses paid for on an official visit. This proposal falls in line with the recent change allowing parents to be reimbursed up to a certain amount on travel to the College Football Playoff or Final Four.
* The Big Ten proposes allowing schools to make postseason tickets available for purchase by athletes before other people so their families can attend games. This would be in addition to the six complimentary tickets that may be provided for postseason events. “There’s actually a rule that says you can’t make special arrangements for tickets for student-athletes and they have to buy them in the same manner as the general student body,” Hawley said. “So we’re saying to young men and women, ‘You actually got us to the Final Four, but you have to stand in line behind all of the students.’”
Health and safety
* The Big 12 wants to provide unchallenged authority to doctors on player medical decisions. This is a sore subject for the Big 12, which argued last year that a new concussion safety committee that reviews protocol for Power Five schools didn’t go far enough. The new Big 12 proposal would require Power Five schools to create a structure that gives a team physician or medical director unchallenged authority to determine manage medical and return-to-play decisions. Like anything else related to NCAA medical care, though, there’s no enforcement mechanism attached to this proposal — at least not yet. “We haven’t dived that deep into it yet,” Flores said. “We didn’t place anything in the proposal with any kind of enforcement arm.”
* The Big Ten suggests allowing football and basketball players who receive only non-athletic scholarships to play without counting against NCAA team limits. The Big Ten says there are some situations in which a recruited football or basketball players qualify for university non-athletic aid but has to forego it by participating in college sports. “The rule probably exists so schools can’t get anyone they want and hide kids on their roster,” Hawley said. “The flip side is you’ve got kids who might legitimately need aid turning it down and to what extent is hiding players without a scholarship really going to happen?”
Student assistant coaches
The SEC proposes to let a full-time graduate student serve as a student assistant coach within his or her five-year period of playing eligibility in order to gain coaching experience. Part of the reason for restricting the student assistant coaching position to undergraduate students was to encourage athletes to work toward graduation. But the SEC says the legislation should provide flexibility for a graduate student who’s still eligible to play to gain exposure to the coaching profession.
* The Mountain West wants to allow NCAA championships in states with sports wagering, meaning UNLV and Nevada could stage one of those events. The Mountain West cited decreased travel time and expenses and less missed class time for athletes if championships were held in Nevada.
Social media recruiting
* The MAC wants to lift all recruiting restrictions on communication over social media, citing the difficulty in monitoring the activity and the desire to keep pace with social media technology.
After former Iowa star football star Tyler Sash died this week at the age of 27, ex-Iowa State player Jeff Woody wrote a powerful piece that anyone who works in college sports should read. Woody is best known for scoring the biggest touchdown in Iowa State history in 2011 when the Cyclones upset No. 2 Oklahoma State. In his piece, Woody said he has “a good idea as to what was going on in (Sash’s) soul … and I was guilty of stoking the flame. I have felt what he felt too, and I had to deal with it the way I knew how.” Woody said he regretted making “unflattering” and “downright mean” remarks to friends about Sash and his personality when he was alive and didn’t try hard to get to know him. “And I regret that more than I can explain right now,” Woody wrote.
Woody described the public’s attention on college athletes as a “two-bladed sword” that can help them but also puts them under a microscope where “you are not allowed access to forgiveness that follows many people like a shadow. In a state like Iowa, this is especially true. We have no one else to watch, so the college kids are what we watch. And we tell them how good they are. And we tell them about how important they are. And we tell them about how much we love them. And we tell them how much they mean to the colors they wear and the state they represent. The only issue with that? We aren’t talking to them. We are talking to a persona of them.”
Woody said he was lucky to have a wife who told him he has more value than simply being an athlete. “I just wish I was able to talk to Tyler now to tell him what he was as Tyler, but no one ever will,” Woody wrote. “My plea is that in the next encounter with an athlete of any level, ask them about their sport, sure, but ask them about what makes them, them. The next time you think about calling a quarterback a ‘stupid son-of-a-bitch’ because he displeased you with a bad pass, remember what you are telling them.”
Attorneys for the NCAA and Football Bowl Subdivision conferences argue that US District Judge Claudia Wilken’s class-certification analysis in the Ed O’Bannon case means she should deny class certification in two other lawsuits, including the Jeffrey Kessler case. The NCAA and conferences took that position in court documents filed this week in anticipation of the Oct. 1 class certification hearing for the Shawne Alston and Martin Jenkins (i.e., the Jeffrey Kessler lawsuit) cases. The lawsuits seek injunctions that would essentially allow schools a free market to pay FBS football players and Division I men’s and women’s basketball players.
At this stage, the NCAA and conferences are trying to show conflict among players so the classes won’t be certified by Wilken, who is the judge in all three of these cases. The NCAA and conferences pointed out that Wilken did not certify a damages class in O’Bannon over the use of players’ names, images and likenesses because of conflicts of interest within the class. Wilken did certify an injunctive class “only after concluding that intra-class conflicts did not exist for the unique reason (not present here) that the group license sought in O’Bannon would not cause class members to compete against one another for compensation,” the NCAA and conferences wrote.
The NCAA and conferences state the injunction sought by Alston and Jenkins is “markedly different” from the injunction sought in O’Bannon. In Alston and Jenkins, the injunction will cause athletes to compete against each other for money and, depending on the differences in the value of each class member’s individual talent, some class members will be harmed by the removal of the NCAA’s no-payment rules, the NCAA and conferences say. Also, they say the plaintiffs’ attempt to certify two “duplicative cases is inherently improper,” and Wilken is empowered to dismiss, stay or enjoin a duplicative action, or to consolidate both actions.
Michigan has the largest social media fan base, the SEC has the most socially engaged conference in America, and the Pac-12 generates the most intentional buzz. Those were the results of a recent analysis by Adobe Digital Index. The study measured social media engagement data through data such as mentions, page likes and followers on various social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr and YouTube. The analysis was conducted from June through August.
Michigan was No. 1 in socially engaged fans with 1.7 million fans, including 323,000 Twitter followers. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh became a Twitter sensation in the offseason. The rest of the top 10 in order: Oregon, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Alabama, LSU, Florida State, South Carolina and Ohio State.
Each week. this space will highlight some excellent recent work by college sports media on difficult topics to report.
* George Schroeder of USA Today wrote that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione do not like ESPN’s new focus on betting during college football telecasts. (Full disclosure: CBSSports.com provides sports picks in its coverage.)
* Pac-12 Networks will likely overhaul its business model — the Pac-12 owns 100 percent of the channels — in order to reach a carriage agreement with DirecTV. AT&T, the parent company of DirecTV, may take an equity stake in the networks, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported.
* ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel wrote about Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan quietly endure the death of his father.
Quote of the week
“I hired too many people that wanted to use the school as a steppingstone for a head coaching job.” — Charlie Weis, speaking at the Little Rock Touchdown Club, on tracing his struggles coaching Notre Dame to the composition of his staff, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Three assistants left Weis’ staff to become head coaches — a common occurrence for ambitious assistants. Weis justified his failures at Kansas by saying his wife asked why he would coach at a basketball school. By December 2016, Weis will have been paid $24.6 million to not coach Notre Dame and Kansas.