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NCAA set to approve NIL policy, hours before NIL laws go live

The NCAA spent more than two years preparing for this moment. The moment's here, and the NCAA is totally unprepared.

It was in the summer of 2014 that the O'Bannon v. NCAA verdict came down, a result that should've told the NCAA its business model was anything but bulletproof in the eyes of the courts. 

The NCAA formed its first Name, Image and Likeness working group on May 14, 2019, eight days before the California senate was to vote on the state's Fair Pay to Play Act. 

And now, after having literal years to prepare for this moment, the NCAA is set to give its schools hours -- literally, hours -- to prepare for the coming NIL era, with all the guidance of "IDK, figure it out yourself." 

With laws in eight states set to go live when the clock strikes midnight on Thursday, the Division I Council on Monday recommended adopting a formal NIL policy. And that policy is this: With the NIL interim policy, schools and conferences may choose to adopt their own policies.

So long as schools and third-parties aren't cutting checks for "pay-for-play and improper inducements tied to choosing to attend a particular school," anything goes.

  • College athletes can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities are responsible for determining whether those activities are consistent with state law.
  • Student-athletes who attend a school in a state without a NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.
  • College athletes can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
  • Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.

In regards to the NCAA's "figure it out yourselves" approach, one administrator told ESPN this:

"It's like building an airplane when you're flying. That's what we're doing."

“We thought we might have a fire drill at the end of all this,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Sports Illustrated “and we have it.”

This being the NCAA, Monday's step is still not the final one. The Division I Council is comprised primarily of athletics personnel, who can only make recommendations for policy such as this. A formal NIL policy -- even if the policy is the lack of a policy -- must be approved by the Board of Directors. The D1 Board of Directors (as well as the D2 and D3 boards) aren't meeting again until Wednesday. 

That is, the day before Thursday, when all these NIL laws the NCAA has spent years preparing for go live.