NCAA President Mark Emmert walked into a public arena recently that could have been a lion’s den for him. Emmert faces widespread and eroding public trust in the NCAA, for good reason. The century-old institution is failing its college players, men and women, in the modern era.
That lion’s den was a U.S. Senate hearing on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules and athlete compensation. It didn’t take long for Senators to expose many problems of transparency, consistency and fairness plaguing the NCAA. In particular, the issue of schools profiting from stand-out athletes at no benefit to the player has hit a tipping point.
With the popularity of March Madness, Super Bowl-style marketing schemes, and video gaming systems promoting images of college athletes in fantasy competition, California passed a law making it illegal for state schools to punish an athlete for profiting from his or her name, image or likeness. The law is due to take effect in 2023.
Understandably, Emmert is looking for the cover of Congress to avoid the pitfalls of a patchwork of state NIL policies. He would like to avoid the consequences that could result from fueling a wild west college athlete endorsement market.
But the NCAA has lost its credibility. It no longer stands up for student-athletes. As a nonprofit organization associated with educational institutions, the NCAA should be supporting players as students, not professionals, but also recognizing their value. Academic integrity should be at the core of any model of intercollegiate competition.
So should fair play for women and upholding laws against sex discrimination.