Thursday, September 29, 2022

States get out of hand when it comes to NCAA, athlete compensation

AUSTIN, Texas ( Associated Press) — The NCAA waited nearly a year to issue a warning that it still has to comply with rules that college athletes can make money on. With his fame, speculation swirled that there might be an action for the schools and the boosters who broke them.

But the NCAA isn’t the only enforcement organization that remained silent as millions of dollars started flying around college athletes.

About half of the states, 24 in total, have laws regarding athlete compensation, All passed since 2019. Many specifically ban pay-for-play and recruit lucrative deals, the NCAA still illegal and critics of the new system worry.

Yet those states have shown no appetite to question or investigate schools, contracts or the third-party groups that operate them. Even if they did, there is little legal framework for how they would do it.

Texas and florida, two states with major college football and basketball programs, ban pay-for-play contracts and use deals to lure recruits to campus. But no state has established a mechanism to investigate or punish any school, organization or agent who breaks the rules.

“A lot of people are referring to the NCAA not taking action, but the same can be said of the states,” said Darren Heitner, an attorney who helped draft the Florida law.

Hetner, an advocate for players’ money-making rights, said the non-enforcement state ban on pay-to-play and recruiting deals pacified lawmakers who were concerned that college sports were changing. But there has been no indication that the state attorney general or local prosecutor will go after a large university, coaches and wealthy donors if the team is bringing in top players and winning.

Alabama was a state that had a specific punishment in its law: Anyone providing compensation to an athlete because of loss of eligibility faced a possible Class C felony, with up to 10 years in prison.

But Alabama lawmakers repealed the state’s entire college athlete compensation law earlier this year. The original author of the law called for repeal because he was concerned that schools in Alabama compared to rival schools in other states did not have the same restrictions because of the loss of admission.

Arkansas gives athletes some legal power in that state. They can sue their agent or any other third party who subsequently offers or sets up a deal deemed unfair and disqualifies them from playing.

Half of the states do not have athlete compensation laws. It’s up to the schools there to navigate the general parameters of the NCAA, provided in June 2021 On the eve of zero age and wait to see what will be implemented. Pay to play and “unfair inducement” were still off the table, the NCAA said, but there were few details and zero deals were struck by the hundreds in the weeks that followed.

The NCAA finally steps back into its enforcement role with new guidance It sought to clarify the types of contracts and booster participation that should be considered unreasonable.

Some expected massive action and the Division I board of governors said its focus was on the future. There Are Too Many Athletes and Too Many Contracts for NCAA Enforcement to see them all.

“Enforcement on the NCAA is going to fall,[but]they won’t try to look at thousands of deals,” said Mitt Winters, a sports law attorney in Kansas City, Missouri.

The NCAA will pay more attention to some of the highly publicized deals set up through major business owners and third-party collectives who have opened dozens of schools to collect millions of dollars and connect athletes to business deals.

“It’s positioned itself where it has no choice but to try to build an example out of a booster or a collective,” Hetner said. “Otherwise what was the point? … If it doesn’t, it’s powerless and obsolete. He still has the problem that he knows he’ll be prosecuted.”

NCAA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In Texas, the nonprofit Horns with Heart announced just before December’s Football National Signing Day that it would be offering zero deals to support a $50,000 donation to all Longhorn Scholarship offensive linemen. A few days later, Texas signed on to one of the top recruiting classes in the country with a bumper crop of blue-chip offensive linemen.

Horns With Heart co-founder Rob Blair was unconvinced of the NCAA’s warning, saying the nonprofit has played by the rules since its launch.

“We realized at the beginning of the Zero Age that this Wild West attitude would eventually lead us to a moment like this, which is why we set out to part ways,” Blair said in an email. “We have gone above and beyond to ensure that we not only follow the letter of the law of the NIL regulation, but we feel that we also represent the spirit of the NIL laws as they were originally written “

In addition to NCAA enforcement staff, the university’s director of compliance — longtime watchdogs over athletes and their qualifications — is trying to navigate a changing landscape with unclear rules.

Iowa’s senior associate athletics director for compliance, Lyla Cleary, welcomed the NCAA’s new guidance on athlete endorsement contracts if it means they will be enforced.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I have much confidence that I’m going to see this happen,” Cleary said, adding that the past year has been “disappointing” for compliance officers.

“You really don’t know, well, what should we implement, because what’s the NCAA going to implement? So we can’t keep banging our heads constantly trying to implement things that aren’t being implemented nationally. “I don’t know if I’d say it’s going blind, but we’re definitely in the dark.”

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Associated Press Sports writer Eric Olson contributed to this report.

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More Associated Press Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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