'How do we improve the landscape?' — With NIL headaches aplenty, NCAA group meets on fact-finding mission

NCAA president Charlie Baker met school administrators to discuss how to create a clearer policy around name, image and likeness money going to athletes. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
NCAA president Charlie Baker met school administrators to discuss how to create a clearer policy around name, image and likeness money going to athletes. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — During a meeting here this week, members of an NCAA working group identified issues around name, image and likeness with a goal of strengthening the association’s interim NIL policy as it pertains to transparency and protections for athletes.

The two-day, fact-finding meeting ended, as expected, without definitive decisions or specific proposals. However, with NCAA president Charlie Baker in attendance, administrators discussed ways to provide more transparency in the NIL space.

That may include the creation of a database for NIL deals, a more uniform contract for such deals and a registry for those participating in NIL with athletes, such as agents and collective representatives.

“The question is, ‘What can we do to help improve and foster NIL activity for student-athletes?’” said meeting chair Lynda Tealer, the executive associate athletic director at Florida. “There is no conversation about stunting what is happening in the NIL space or walking anything back.

“How do we improve the landscape?” she continued. “Some of that is to continue to push congressional action, but what can we do on the NCAA front to add stability, reliability and transparency? There is a need for Congressional intervention, but it won’t solve all the problems.”

The NIL working group, made up mostly of school administrators, will meet again Monday to formulate more of a proposal to present later to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, where the group could expound on its interim NIL policy.

The NCAA is currently managing NIL through a fairly vague interim policy. More importantly, the policy has, for the most part, not been enforced. The association has only sent reminders about the guidance to member schools, but has not penalized programs for violating the policy, though investigations are active. Tealer said enforcement was not a primary topic at the meetings.

Discussion mostly centered on ways to protect athletes and provide more transparency in both who they are striking deals with and the details of those deals. The “starting point” of the conversation, Tealer said, was the potential creation of a database to provide more transparency — not a new concept but one that leaders bailed on two years ago.

In fact, the NCAA conducted a bidding process for a third-party administrator to create and monitor deals through a sort-of dashboard. But the organization eschewed the plan in light of legal concerns, something that many officials now believe was a mistake.

“I think there’s a lot of interest in transparency. What’s real out there?” Tealer said. “How to do that is Step 2.”

Another potential option is to create a registry where those participating in NIL deals with athletes would have to report and possibly be cleared by the NCAA.

“Is there a way to add [something] about how student-athletes understand who they are doing business with? Is there an interest in that?” Tealer said. “Can you do that? That’s the question. Would it be to the benefit of student-athletes? Anything that helps athletes understand who they are interacting with and what they can count on and what’s real, that was really the issue.”

Isaac Vance, a recent former college football player who is now on staff at Gardner-Webb, says transparency in deals is key. Vance is the athlete representative on the working group.

“As long as we can be transparent between student-athletes and administration, we’re going in the right direction,” he said. “That’s what we’re working towards.”