A band-aid typically is not the solution you choose when faced with a major problem, but that's effectively what the NCAA has done with its oversight approach impacting athletes being compensated for their name, image and likeness.
With laws in at least 10 states allowing players to benefit from NIL rights due to go into effect Thursday, the NCAA was left with little choice but to find a temporary solution to a complex issue that has been brewing for years and required definitive action in recent months.
The NCAA Board of Directors followed the Division I Council's recommendation Wednesday for an interim policy that would have athletes at schools in states with NIL laws following the guidance of their respective legislation. Athletes in other states will be allowed to benefit from their NIL based on their school or conference rules or are able to act in absence of those rules.
If this seems confusing and directionless then you're feeling the right thing. The NCAA should have acted decisively to confront an issue that will fundamentally alter the experience of being a student-athlete.
The organization, instead, has been hoping to avoid this day by consistently playing a bad hand and doubling down on its strategy to either win in federal court or the court of public opinion and then later finding a solution in Congress.
What's remarkable in its approach is that the NCAA saw the challenges coming. It established a working group to examine the NIL concerns in May 2019, four months before California passed the first law granting NIL rights to college athletes in its state. That bill was supposed to go into effect in 2023. Several states soon took up their bills that pushed the timeline this summer.
The working group came back a year later and the NCAA finally admitted what was long obvious: College athletes should get compensated for their name, image and likeness.
Still, members couldn't reach an agreement on how to address the situation — even with a year to sort it out. To be fair, it's complicated with many moving parts, but the dawdling seemed to indicate this was a half-hearted approach to quiet critics instead of solving the problem.
The focus for the NCAA became finding a federal solution that would address NIL concerns in all 50 states. It was hoping the legislation would also include antitrust protections that would insulate the organization from future legal challenges. But, unsurprisingly, Congress hasn't come close to finding an agreement in time.
The judicial branch also has been a losing venue. The Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA earlier this month as it sought to limit education expenses in a decision that also criticized its model that does not compensate the students that play the games that are part of its billion-dollar enterprise. The outcome didn't directly impact the NIL questions, but the defeat leaves the NCAA on less-solid ground as it seeks governmental assistance.
So what's left is this piecemeal approach that is going to be dizzying for the NCAA, athletes, schools and fans to get their heads around.
Perhaps the band-aid will hold long enough for a healing solution. Congress could act this fall and many of these issues would be resolved. That seems like wishful thinking even during a time when acrimony between the parties was at a low point. Should that fail then the NCAA likely would try to pass its own legislation governing all schools.
The band-aid also could easily fall off. As many as 15 states could have NIL laws in effect by Sept. 1, creating more challenges to rules enforcement in an area ripe for corruption and an even more uneven playing field for schools and athletes depending on their state rules.
There's also the prospect of legal challenges to the NCAA rules or state laws that are sure to come. Any limits are going to be in the crosshairs of athletes, companies and lawyers wanting to push the boundaries of what is allowed.
So like most things with the NCAA, what's left from a delicate situation is an empty feeling that could have been averted by proactive thinking. Time will tell if — and how much — this hurts the organization. The NCAA will only have itself to blame.
Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Name, image, likeness: Confusion at heart of NCAA's temporary policy