Forde-Yard Dash: NCAA, you're now on the clock

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (special teams help sold separately at Charlotte, where the 49ers have had a punt returned for a touchdown, a kickoff returned for a touchdown, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and an onside kick returned for a touchdown):

[More Dash: 10 key developments | October games | Hires gone wrong]

FOURTH QUARTER

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YOU HAVE THREE YEARS, NCAA. FIGURE IT OUT.

When California Gov. Gavin Newsom (31) signed Senate Bill 206 Monday morning, he formally started the clock on the NCAA to figure its way out of Castle Amateurism. Voluntarily or at gunpoint, this is going to end with the governing body of college sports fundamentally altering how it compensates college athletes.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023. That gives the NCAA some runway to get with the times when it comes to name, image and likeness compensation.

The NCAA already was pushed toward amending its stance on the matter. With losses mounting in court, the association announced last spring that it was forming a working group to study NIL issues. That was a notable move from an entrenched bureaucracy that has taken a hard line on amateurism roughly forever, and it served as an acknowledgement that the NCAA no longer is dealing from a position of strength on this issue.

But now this is more than just fending off criticism from athletes and media. Now one state legislature has taken action, with several more mulling it.

Sensing which direction the wind is blowing, the NCAA issued a statement that was remarkably open-minded in tone — certainly moreso than the declaration last week from president Mark Emmert (32) that labeled the NIL movement an “existential threat” to the college sports model. This is how the NCAA framed it Monday:

“As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process. Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.

“We will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.

“As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions at a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt York)
NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions at a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Here’s what the NCAA doesn’t want to do — follow through on a veiled threat to exclude California schools from its championships. Excluding the most populous state and many of the top athletic departments from championship competition would be financially damaging and dramatically lessen the quality of competition in many sports. The top three schools in NCAA history in terms of team championships won are all from California:

Stanford (33) with 123, including six in 2018-19 (women’s volleyball, women’s swimming, men’s gymnastics, men’s golf, women’s tennis, women’s water polo).

UCLA (34) with 118, including two in 2018-19 (softball, beach volleyball).

USC (35) with 107, including one in 2018-19 (men’s water polo).

Interestingly, the Pac-12 (36) also issued a statement of concern over the law: “The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.”

Ultimately, this is likely to come down to a compromise of sorts, with California schools and lawmakers now empowered to lead the way on shaping what the future holds. The NCAA needs to get involved, not dig in. The clock is ticking.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Northwestern (37) hitched its offensive wagon to Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson as its quarterback, believing that the drop-off from four-year starter Clayton Thorson would be minimal with the one-time five-star prospect directing the Wildcats’ offense. Instead, the drop-off has been precipitous.

Northwestern is on pace to have one of the worst passing offenses of the 21st century. As it stands, the only ones less efficient than the Wildcats were Army in 2017 (and the Cadets makes no pretense of trying to throw the ball) and Baylor in 2000.

The Wildcats currently are dead-last nationally in efficiency with a rating of 77.8, nearly 10 points behind No. 129 Georgia Southern. They also are last nationally in yards per attempt (4.4, on pace to be the lowest in a decade) and have the worst touchdown-to-interception ratio in the nation (two TDs, seven picks). Johnson has not been good; backup TJ Green is out for the season with an injury, and third-stringer Aidan Smith has not been an improvement.

In fairness, Northwestern has played some serious defenses so far in Wisconsin and Michigan State. There will be easier days ahead (something will have to give Nov. 16, when UMass brings the worst pass defense to Evanston). But head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s stubborn support of 12-year coordinator Mick McCall is going to be difficult to maintain if this offense doesn’t improve radically over the next two months.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Nick Rolovich (38), Hawaii. In cold weather and with a threat of snow in Reno, the Rainbow Warriors dropped a 54-3 hammer on Nevada on Saturday night. That was Hawaii’s largest margin of victory on the Mainland since 2006, improving its record to 4-1. That statement performance ups the intrigue for Hawaii’s game at undefeated Boise State on Oct. 12.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

There were a few teams that stunk it up against ranked teams over the weekend — we see you, Maryland and Nebraska — but not even the Terrapins and Cornhuskers were as bad out of the gate as the Mississippi State team that Joe Moorhead (39) took into Auburn. It took six minutes for the Tigers to take a 21-0 lead — and that’s with the Bulldogs getting the ball first. Mississippi State’s first three possessions included the following: a delay of game on the first play; four penalties; one sack; one fumbled kickoff return; zero first downs; 21 points allowed on eight Auburn snaps. It was 42-9 at halftime before the Tigers lost interest, winning 56-23.

POINT AFTER

When thirsty and in need of game viewing in Atlanta, The Dash recommends a trip to Whitehall Tavern (40) in Buckhead. The TV setup is good, both inside and outside, and the beer menu is robust. Try a Blind Pirate Double IPA from local Monday Night Brewing and thank The Dash later.

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