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NCAA chief, pressured by state law, urges athletes to make money

CORAL GABLES, Florida – The University of Miami has long had a shining pitch for the students it hopes will star on their sports teams: an exceptional sporting tradition, distinguished academics, South Florida’s sun-kissed glamor .

For months, coaches in Miami – and every other college in Florida – have had a new selling point: Play here and maybe make some money off of your athletic fame thanks to a new state law.

Florida and four other states are ready to give players the opportunity to sign advertising deals starting this summer. As universities in other states fear losing recruits, the NCAA is making renewed efforts to extend similar rights to college athletes across the country.

In an interview with the New York Times on Friday, NCAA President Mark Emmert said he would recommend college sports governing bodies to pass new rules “before or just before July 1” when the new laws are scheduled to come in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico in effect.

The changes together promise to reshape a billion dollar industry and test the NCAA’s generations of claims that student athletes should be amateurs, playing primarily for scholarships, and that college sports appeal to fans, also because the players aren’t professionals.

“When I played college football, my priorities were girls, soccer, and then school,” said Mark Richt, who directed soccer programs in Georgia and Miami before retiring from coaching in 2018. Football, school. “

According to a proposal that has been in front of NCAA members for months, student athletes could be paid in exchange for the use of their names, pictures and likenesses by many private companies. The plan, which could go into effect on August 1st, would also allow players to make money through advertising on their social media accounts.

“We have to vote on these rules, which are now before the members,” said Emmert.

The current proposal would give colleges and universities the power to block some agreements if they conflict with “existing institutional sponsorship agreements”. This means that an athlete may not be able to enter into an endorsement contract with Adidas if their college already has one with Nike. Other possible restrictions include bans on promoting sports betting and hiring agents “to secure a chance as a professional athlete”.

However, Emmert and other college sports executives acknowledge that the plans NCAA officials ponder will not fully resolve the lengthy debate. The proposed guidelines, which could still be amended, differ in some respects from the new state laws, which themselves are far from uniform.

“The inherent problem with the NCAA is that the constitutional amendments being drafted do not go as far as some of the state laws, so you will still have tension over state law and NCAA rules,” said Greg Sankey, commissioner for the Southeastern Conference where six of 14 colleges are expected to operate under new laws by July.

Sankey is among the leaders who have urged Congress to set a coast-to-coast standard to break a blurring of state laws.

For example, in Florida, colleges are required to run financial education workshops for athletes. Alabama colleges can prohibit their players from doing business with alcohol companies. Georgian law provides for a rule that sometimes players may be forced to share part of their income with other athletes.

Other states, including California, Michigan, and New Jersey, have similar laws that are scheduled to go into effect in the coming months and years.

The question of whether and how student-athletes should be able to earn money has long been a boiling point, especially since many coaches received seven-figure salaries, universities built breathtaking sports buildings and TV agreements brought in billions of dollars. The issue exploded in 2019 when California defied warnings from the NCAA and passed its law, due to come into effect in 2023.

The NCAA’s deliberate pace of change created more frustration among university administrators and lawmakers, leading to more proposals in more state houses. In an interview last year, Donna E. Shalala, a former president of the University of Miami who became a Democratic member of Congress, complained that the NCAA had “no strategy” and “no clear message” when she took her case to lawmakers in pleaded the nation’s capital.

More than a year later, the college sports industry is looking to Washington for a solution. Although proposals are floating around on Capitol Hill, it is far from clear whether a federal bill will be passed in 2021.

“We need a system that does justice to all of our undergraduate athletes, that protects the scholarships of undergraduate athletes in both revenue and Olympic sports, and does nothing to destroy the college model that is essentially life-changing educational opportunities for So many People including my father, my brother, myself, my son, ”said Kevin Warren, commissioner for the Big Ten Conference, whose 14 universities are not in states whose laws go into effect in July.

The NCAA had scheduled a vote on its proposals in January but postponed it after the Trump administration raised antitrust concerns. Emmert said Friday that NCAA officials were in contact with the Justice Department to discuss regulatory concerns.

His conclusion that the association should now sign its long-planned rules will ease some nerves in college sports. Sports officials have feared that the new state laws, taken by themselves, would suddenly create dramatic gaps in competition.

Executives from universities and marketing across the country anticipate some stakeholders to make extremely valuable agreements, but they expect the most opportunities to involve local businesses offering thousands or tens of thousands of dollars – far from it, such as a glitzy condo with a view to buy on South Beach.

“I don’t think everyone on the soccer team would get a shoe deal, let alone add over 300 other student-athletes,” said Blake James, the Miami sports director who worked with state lawmakers on that Develop Florida Law.

Experts believe that new standards will be especially important for women who, as college athletes, appeal to large, loyal audiences but have less lucrative opportunities in professional sports. In a broader sense, however, the new rules could greatly benefit thousands of college athletes who are largely prevented by the NCAA rules from making money in ways that other students can. These restrictions have increasingly angered Democratic and Republican officials.

“We don’t want to change the nature of the sport,” said Representative Chip LaMarca, the Republican architect of Florida law. “We’re just trying to add the same economic freedom and fairness that a typical college student would have.”

The players are ready to take advantage of new opportunities. When Florida lawmakers considered whether to postpone the measure approved last year, D’Eriq King, a Miami quarterback, said. wrote on Twitter: “Don’t go back now. Let us benefit from OUR name image and our similarity. We deserve it! “

Emmert wouldn’t argue whether the club could challenge any of the state’s laws in court. However, he said he did not expect decisions about new industry rules to depend on the outcome of a case the association recently discussed in the United States Supreme Court examining the scope of the NCAA’s powers.

Complications arise in the face of widespread uncertainty about the rules, and there is consensus that they will almost certainly change again, especially if Congress steps in.

Consider Miami, one of three schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference to fall under the new state laws on July 1st.

Before and after Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s law on the Miami campus last June, university officials grappled with how the new law would work. In December, Miami announced that its soccer program had partnered with an Alabama company, INFLCR, to help students navigate the jungle of rules and opportunities. Coach Manny Diaz promoted the deal as a basis for the players to “build their brand in the heart of one of the most dynamic cities in the world”.

But James, the sports director, admitted that his staff’s preparations may only last that long.

“We plan according to the rules we know,” he said recently in his office filled with memorabilia. “The reality is these rules will change sometime by July 1, 2022.”

He admitted that he probably wasn’t always excited to see what changes were coming. On the other hand, James said he once voted on a proposal to restrict text messages from coaches to recruits because students and their families faced exorbitant phone bills in the era of unlimited plans.

“Well, you fast-forward, thinking we’re not going to text is crazy,” he said with a chuckle. The recent moves towards change also seem inevitable.

“When you look at where social media is and how an individual can really have a brand, that’s definitely where we’ve got to,” said James.

Or like Richt, who is now a television analyst for the ACC network, said, “It’s here, so you better take it.”

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