As a lifelong politician, Charlie Baker knows the importance of remaining connected to your constituents. So during his first 100 days as president of the NCAA, Baker traveled around the country, visiting as many college conferences as possible.
During these visits, he would gauge the pulse of the college athletics community, gathering as much information as possible.
Baker was the keynote speaker at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention in Orlando this week. In front of a standing-room-only crowd, the former Governor of Massachusetts addressed several challenges facing the NCAA, including Name, Image and Likeness (NIL).
“I took the job because I think college sports are uniquely an American treasure,” Baker told the group. “They’re hugely exciting for fans of all ages and from every walk of life, but they also changed the game for hundreds of thousands of student-athletes every year.”
“It’s a complicated time in college sports. Some might call it a pivotable time.”
NIL remains one of the top concerns among college officials and Baker made it clear he supports athletes making money off their name, image and likeness.
“No matter where we go on this issue, the NCAA, schools or Congress, we cannot and will not impede student-athletes rights to earn money from legitimate NIL deals,” Baker said. “Unfortunately, when this issue unfolded several years ago, the NCAA didn’t get something done. I believe that was a mistake, and now we need to adapt.”
Baker said less than half of the 21,000 athletes who entered the transfer portal last year didn’t wind up signing with another school. He credits that fact to the idea that many of those athletes were chasing NIL deals that didn’t materialize.
“One of the greatest tragedies of that is the impact it has on student-athletes and families who don’t know what to believe or who they can trust,” he added.
According to Baker, the answer is a uniform standard NIL contract that would help provide athletes with a better understanding of the current marketplace and help provide some transparency on the deals themselves.
“It needs to be a fundamental part of what we do next with that and shedding some sunlight on shady deals,” he added.
With most states enacting their own NIL laws, the lines between what can and cannot be done have been blurred. Baker believes federal legislation is the only answer to providing unanimity. He was among a group of college administrators to meet with federal lawmakers earlier this month to discuss legislation for NIL. The NCAA has been pushing for a national bill to supersede a patchwork of state laws and provide federal guidance.
“Obviously getting Congress to act is an immensely difficult challenge,” Baker said. “And we have to be willing to prepare an alternative course of action. That’s why I’m committed to advancing legislation through the NCAA committee process.”