The NCAA’s response to Georgia’s new NIL law reveals the emperor’s new clothes

Earlier today, the State of Georgia enacted HB 617, which affirmatively permits college athletes attending schools in that state to receive financial compensation for use of their name, image, or likeness (“NIL”). The new law takes effect on July 1, 2021.

In a nationwide environment in which the NCAA broadly prohibits almost every form of direct financial compensation to so-called “student athletes,” emerging state laws like Georgia’s HB 617– other states joining in this initial wave include Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and New Mexico– offer a commonsense middle ground on compensation that’s short of revenue sharing with school athletic departments and would seem to place schools in those states at a competitive recruiting advantage, at least in the short term.

The NCAA’s initial response to what appears to be a broadside attack on one of the governing body’s longstanding, core tenets was surprising. Jere Morehead, a member of the NCAA Board of Governors “said he would expect the NCAA would allow ‘accommodations,’ to be made for athletes in states with NIL rules.” Morehead also is the president of the University of Georgia, so this may not be the NCAA’s official position on state NIL laws. If the “accommodations” comment reflects in any way the thinking within NCAA leadership, though, it is extremely illuminating.

It’s easy to forget that athletics organizing entities, and especially in light of their popularity and rhetoric the NCAA, NFL, and MLB, do not act and regulate their respective sports with the force of actual law. (In fact, they in some sense operate outside the law thanks to formal and informal antitrust exemptions.) During baseball’s meltdown over Barry Bonds’ superhuman ascension in the early aughts, you could be forgiven if you weren’t sure whether steroids were illegal illegal or merely MLB “illegal.” The NFL also has done an effective job of coopting this officious language into its in-sport vernacular as well (e.g., “illegal touching” having quite different meanings on and off the field). All of these groups have “committees” that issue “rules” and “regulations” just like real government agencies!

For the degree to which these private sports administrative entities control the behavior of their subject players as well as the general public’s perception of the goings-ons in and around their games, it’s sort of amazing that states could just opt out of a major NCAA prohibition and the NCAA’s response is to roll over and take it. Not that passing legislation is easy, but is this all that was needed all along?

If the NCAA’s “accommodations” response proves real, it could carry widespread consequences for the enforceability of other NCAA rules. Suddenly, the implication is that the NCAA will yield wherever its policies conflict with state law. Does this mean an end to the NCAA’s punishment of athletes who use marijuana in states that have authorized its use? What about sports wagering? There of course are other actual legal factors at work with those two examples (the persistent federal marijuana prohibition and common legal provisions restricting wagering by contest participants), and it’s unclear whether an affirmative legalization is a prerequisite (e.g., was Todd Gurley prohibited from being paid for autographed helmets as a matter of Georgia law?) . Still, Morehead’s suggestion that the NCAA will quietly accede in this area implies that there actually may not be much brute behind the bluster out of Indianapolis. If that’s the case, it’s a welcome– if still annoyingly executed– development that should further hasten the loosening of the NCAA’s iron fist over those whose efforts generate millions of dollars in administrative salaries.

Analyzing college football coaches’ favorite musical artists

bruce-springsteen-slide-super-bowl-halftime-show

ESPN conducted a survey of all 128 Division I college football coaches, asking them to name their favorite musical artist. The full list of responses is here. My cursory analysis is here:   Continue reading

The High Road to Taos (via Stio)

“When I got to New Mexico that was mine. As soon as I saw it that was my country.  It fitted to me exactly, ” Georgia O’Keefe to Alfred Steiglitz 1940.

Saturated colbalt contrasts the stucco wall the shade of pimentón de la vera.  The history, precision and elegance of the Northern New Mexico captured my heart.  After meditating on the landscapes of O’Keefe’s New Mexico, I climbed through the Santa Fe Sangre de Cristo Mountains, winding down state road 503 along a historical route called The High Road to Taos.

The Solomon Extreme Freeride Championship, at Taos Ski Valley, began the next day and I was anxious to compete for the very first time, but I found strength and inspiration in the enchanting landscape of Northern New Mexico. … Read More

(via Stio)

NCAA Tournament: Day 1 Recap

spartyondrumsFor the most part, everyone did what they were supposed to do yesterday, with a few exceptions. Some of the highlights:

  • Despite some fight from Valparaiso and surrendering turnovers in spades, Michigan State pulled away to a win in the tournament’s opening game.
  • Newly anointed Gonzaga nearly blew their opportunity and almost became the first #1 seed to go down in the first round, escaping with a win over a Southern team that would not go away.
  • Harvard University, which has so little going for it, finally found some success in the realm of sport, securing its first tournament win with an upset of #3 New Mexico.
  • New Mexico State also lost yesterday, making this article really sad.
  • Colorado State’s win over continually hapless Missouri was a yawner…until it wasn’t!
  • When will we stop underseeding the Pacific Twelve? Oregon pulled one of the least surprising 12-5 upsets ever by knocking off Eddie Sutton-less Oklahoma State, while #12 Cal eked one out against #5 UNLV.
  • As usual, I got greedy with underdogs in the early rounds, so the dispatching of UNLV and Belmont wasn’t too kind to my ALDLAND bracket. (If you’re a junkie, you can see the updated standings here. We’ll do a deep analysis after the first two rounds are complete.)

On that last point, keep an eye on Ole Miss and Wisconsin today, outcome to be determined by the severity of Marshall Henderson’s inevitable hangover.

Satellites and Chuck Klosterman: A 1,000,000 foot-view of the NCAA tournament

Yesterday, the voice of the Hip Generation, Chuck Klosterman, rated the NCAA men’s basketball tournament “slightly overrated.” In doing so, Klosterman identified an emergent feature of the tournament that I’ve been talking about for at least three years: the improved accuracy with which the tournament committee seeds the teams, leading to fewer “upsets.” Why? Satellite TV. Huh? The committee is watching more games of more teams. They’re more educated about more teams, so they rank them more accurately. Can you give me an example? Sure. Gonzaga likely has always been about as good as they are today, but the little school in Spokane with the funny name (it has a Z in it you guys!) used to come out of nowhere and “upset” teams because the ‘Zags were underrated. You used to be a fool not to mark Gonzaga down for two wins. Now, though, someone in Indianapolis could watch every Gonzaga regular-season game if he or she wanted, something people likely couldn’t and certainly didn’t do five years ago, and so Gonzaga’s come back to the pack as they’ve been more accurately seeded.

Writeth Klosterman:

The NCAA selection committee has gotten too good at its job. . . . The committee now seeds the tournament so precisely that the early rounds lack dissonance. We’ve exaggerated the import of the process. The brackets are way more accurate, but less compelling. In the not-so-distant past, the limitations of media kept college sports unpredictable. Easy example: Throughout the 1980s, it seemed like the New Mexico Lobos were habitually being shafted. In 1986-87, they won 25 games and still ended up in the NIT. And when analysts would try to explain why that happened, they’d concede that the members of the committee had not seen enough of New Mexico to give them the benefit of the doubt. They would almost admit they knew almost nothing about the program (and at the time, that felt like a problem). That could never happen now. I’ve somehow seen New Mexico play three times this year, and it’s not even my job. With unlimited media, nothing remains unknown; the committee makes fewer mistakes, and the seedings have become staggeringly reliable. Which was always the goal. The only problem is that the realization of that goal erodes the inherent unpredictability that everyone craves. The surgery was successful, but the patient died.

Rivalries and Penalties

In honor of the general chippiness of the Georgia-Vandy game this weekend and the swings Spartans DE William Gholston took against Wolverine players, resulting in suspensions to players (see here and likely here), but interestingly not coaches (see here or here), the WSJ took a look at the “dirtiest” college football rivalries, based upon the number of behavior-related penalties per game.  Interestingly, Georgia popped up again: number one on the list was the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.  Michigan/Michigan St. wasn’t far behind.

RIVALRY PER GAME BIGGER OFFENDER
Auburn-Georgia 5.4 Georgia 59%
Duke-North Carolina 5.2 N. Carolina 69%
UCLA-Southern California 4.8 UCLA 54%
N. Mexico-N.Mexico St. 4.6 N. Mexico 65%
Kansas-Missouri 4.2 Missouri 76%
Michigan-Michigan St. 4.0 Michigan St 80%
C. Michigan-W. Michigan 3.8 Western 58%
Brigham Young-Utah 3.6 Utah 61%
NC State-North Carolina 3.4 N. Carolina 59%