NCAA delays vote to change college athlete compensation rules

The NCAA will not meet its self-administered deadline to update rules that dicatate how athletes are allowed to benefit from their publicity rights during their college careers as the Division I Council decided to indefinitely delay a vote on the proposed rule changes Monday.

The Council, which is the penultimate stop in the NCAA's rule-making process, decided they needed more information before voting on a proposal that would allow athletes to accept endorsement money for their name, image and likeness (NIL). They also delayed a vote that would loosen restrictions on transfer rules for athletes in some of the association's most popular sports -- including football and basketball.

"The Council remains fully committed to modernizing Division I rules in ways that benefit all student-athletes," Council chair and athletics director at Pennsylvania Grace Calhoun said in a statement. "Unfortunately, external factors require this pause, and the Council will use this time to enhance the proposals."

While some members of the group had suggested a delay weeks ago, a source said momentum picked up this past weekend after the leader of the Department of Justice's antitrust division sent a letter to NCAA leaders warning that rule changes could pull them deeper into murky legal waters.

The NCAA announced it was still committed to voting on both the NIL and transfer proposals, but sources said there was no discussion during Monday's meeting about a revised timeline for a decision.

"We're going to pass NIL and deregulate transfers. That is going to happen," one source said. "There's just more information-gathering that has to happen, specifically from the DOJ."

The NCAA's board of directors -- the final group who votes on rule changes --announced more than a year ago that all three of the association's divisions had to update their policies that dictate the ways in which athletes can sell the rights to their name, image and likeness. At the time of that decision, in October 2019, the board said each division needed to create new rules by no later than January 2021.

The board's decision in 2019 was prompted by pressure from state legislatures who have passed laws that will make it illegal for schools in their states to follow the NCAA's current policy on NIL rights. Pressure has continued to build in the past year as more states have written or passed similar laws, and members of Congress have discussed creating a federal law. NCAA president Mark Emmert and other leaders in college sports have asked for help from the federal government in establishing a uniform national law that will create consistency and also regulate the future marketplace for athlete endorsements.

Florida is scheduled to be the first state to have its law go into effect on July 1. Nebraska's law could go into effect this year as well if the schools in that state decide they want to get started. If state laws go into effect before the NCAA changes its rules or before Congress votes on a national law, they are likely to prompt legal challenges or an unequal recruiting advantage that Emmert and others have said would create chaos.

Ramogi Huma, founder of the National Collegiate Players' Association and a longtime advocate for enhancing the rights of college athletes called Monday's decision "a slap in the face." He asked more states to press forward with legislation that would allow players to make money from endorsements.

"College athletes deserve fair treatment now, and they need lawmakers to grant them these freedoms once and for all," Huma said.

A group appointed to study the issue proposed NIL rule changes this past October. Those changes would allow athletes to profit from their NIL rights in a variety of ways, but also included some restriction and would give a yet-to-be-determined third party the power to regulate deals.

NCAA leaders say the regulation is needed to make sure that endorsement deals don't become a thinly-veiled way for boosters to pay large sums of money to recruit or retain athletes. Last week, outgoing Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim drafted a letter that said, in part, that attempts to cap what an athlete could make from endorsement might be seen as a violation of antitrust laws. The letter also said that some of the restrictions proposed in the new transfer policy could also cause problems for the NCAA.

Emmert told the council members at Monday's meeting that he originally found out about the letter when it was reported in the media this past Friday. He told The New York Times this weekend that the letter threw a last-minute "monkey wrench" in the plans to vote on the two proposals this week.

Emmert, along with the NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy, spoke during Monday's meeting. They told the virtual attendees that it would be prudent to wait on a vote until they were able to discuss the ramifications of new rules with the Department of Justice officials.

The current antitrust division leader is not expected to remain in his position when President-Elect Joe Biden takes over later this month. NCAA leaders may also decide to wait for the results of a Supreme Court decision that is expected to address some of the NCAA's amateurism policies at some point during the first six months of the year.

The proposals for new NIL and transfer rules suggested that they should go into effect prior to the start of 2021-22 academic year.