What if all efforts – the NCAA talking points, the backroom lobbying, the circulating drafts of federal bills – all fall flat? What if months from now, when the election cycle sucks up all the oxygen in Congress, the NCAA is still without the federal NIL bill it badly covets?
“I haven’t heard anybody talking about a Plan B now,” Bubba Cunningham, North Carolina‘s athletic director, told On3. “Hope we have people working on that. We do need a Plan B and C.
“And what does it look like: Do we go to a revenue-sharing model for some of our teams? Do we go to need-based models for the majority of our teams? What impact do all of these conversations have on the Olympic movement?”
Outcomes related to the National Labor Relations Board‘s complaint of unfair labor practices against USC, the Pac-12 and NCAA and the Johnson v. NCAA case could usher in the student-athlete employment era – at least for some athletes. At least to date, the NCAA is ceding the opportunity to play a hands-on role in creating a new college sports model.
Rather, the association has pushed all its chips to the center of the table in seeking a lifeline from Congress.
The strategy it employs with Congress is important. Instead of shooting for the moon and attempting to check all boxes on the NCAA’s wish list – a uniform NIL national standard, limited antitrust protection and a federal designation that student-athletes are not employees – more industry leaders are publicly and privately endorsing pursuing a more narrowly tailored bill.
One could address NIL transparency, accountability and uniformity, sources say.
Tom McMillen, the former U.S. Congressman and current CEO of LEAD1 Association, is in this camp.
First, a narrowly focused bill is more attainable. Secondly, he said, the NCAA, which has taken a beating both in brick-and-mortar courts as well as the court of public opinion, needs a win. This would be one under first-year President Charlie Baker.
Regardless, sources stress that leading college sports stakeholders would be best served to model out what different business models entail. Because, one way or another, change is coming.
“What’s the long-term impact of revenue sharing – does it mirror the pro model that we see in our country today, where 90% of the participants are male?” Cunningham said. “If we go down that path, it really will have an adverse effect on our Olympic movement. So, what does the funding model look like? “The pro model pushes money to the most popular kids in the most popular sports. We seem to be walking down that path. I hope we recognize it before it’s too late.”