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Ashway: Georgia’s NIL law exposes baffling NCAA leadership
Denton Ashway
DENTON ASHWAY

Georgia’s progressive movement continued apace last week, as Governor Kemp signed into law House Bill 617.

“Student-athletes may earn compensation based upon their name, image, or likeness beginning July 1,” University of Georgia Compliance Director Will Lawler told The Athletic. “We have no plans for a pooling arrangement. In short, UGA student-athletes would not have to wait a year after they leave school to receive NIL compensation.”

Since Gov. Kemp signed the bill in Georgia’s new recruiting lounge at Sanford Stadium, the force behind the bill’s passage was clear. 

“It’s just a different age, a different time,” Gov. Kemp told The Athletic. “College football is so big now. The finances are so big. Players have a lot at risk. You’ve got other sports where people go pro right out of high school. I think this is the right step at the right time in the right direction to continue to protect the student-athlete, but also give the athletes a benefit of what others are getting across the sports world.”

Of course, that wasn’t Gov. Kemp’s sole motivation. 

“I believe it sets Georgia to accomplish something that quite honestly should have been done a long time ago,” he told the Athens Banner-Herald. “I’m a little biased, but I believe this is going to give Coach Smart every bit of help he needs to bring home a national championship.”

No, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi haven’t suddenly charged to the left alongside California, which passed the first NIL law in September 2019. However, California’s law doesn’t take effect until 2023. Recent NIL laws in these states where football is king take effect this July 1. South Carolina just enacted an NIL law to take effect next year. More are on the books or on the way.

The obvious problem: 50 states passing 50 different NIL laws. This adds another layer to the already overwhelming recruiting process. And it creates the possibility (probability?) of athletes matriculating at a school in the most NIL-friendly state.

“A number of states are passing laws like this one,” UGA President Jere Morehead told The Athletic. “But I think, long term, our hope is there will be a federal solution down the road. Perhaps by July 1. It may come later. It may never come. We can’t predict what Congress will do. But I think the goal will be uniformity around the country.”

We’re in this mess because of rudderless leadership from the NCAA. 

“We hope we’ll get a solution this year,” Morehead continued. “But I don’t want to speak for the NCAA president and what he may or may not propose to the board until he does. But I would expect that accommodations will be made to student-athletes that are in states that have NIL laws.”

In typically reactive fashion (proactivity being anathema to him) NCAA President Mark Emmert announced Friday during an interview with The New York Times that he would recommend that the NCAA board approve NIL measures “before, or as close to, July 1. We need to get a vote on these rules that are in front of the members now.”

At least Emmert can read the writing on the wall. So now, after sitting around thumb twiddling for a year and a half, let’s ram through well-thought-out guidelines in 54 days. I’m sure that’ll work nicely.

The butchered handling of the NIL issue is just the latest in a series of missteps during Emmert’s reign, which began in November 2010. During the past decade, he has lowered the standard for presidential leadership like no one since Warren Gamaliel Harding 100 years ago.

His tenure has overseen an erosion of NCAA enforcement capabilities, a premature extension of rights fees for March Madness, a bungling of the Penn State mess, and a laissez-faire approach to the North Carolina African Studies fiasco. And just two months ago, the hideous, disparity between facilities and treatment between the men’s and women’s basketball tournament participants was exposed.

This is the track record of a president who just had his contract extended for two more years by the NCAA Board of Governors. The announcement came as part of a press release issued at 9:06 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27. It was buried 500 words deep under “other business.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Such a blaring announcement seems more indicative of the board’s esteem for Emmert than the unanimous vote. Perhaps they hoped no one would notice if they acted under cover of darkness.

Provided with an easy exit strategy when Emmert’s name was recently linked to his former job, Chancellor of LSU, the board, inexplicably feared losing him. So they extended him instead. Really.

Why?

“Mark getting extended to 2025 might destroy this organization,” one prominent athletic director told Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. “The board is being delusional.”

Thamel also included quotes from four different college presidents, gathered by Yahoo Sports:

“I am shocked. Many people thought it was time for a change. Overdue, actually.”

“Wow. I am befuddled.”

“Simply baffling. And unanimous at that!”

“Wow. Apoplectic is the right word.”

The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was founded on March 31, 1906. It changed its name to the NCAA in 1910. The organization was charged with leading the reformation of the rules and regulations of college sports.

Now the NCAA can’t even lead itself.