The NCAA is currently moving forward with its name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation in the only way the NCAA knows how: by getting the thing completely tangled up in one bureaucratic digestive system after another. On top of its own committee system, the NCAA is in discussions with the multiple offices of the United States Congress to work with them on their own legislation.
Meanwhile, the NAIA is over here just.... getting it done.
According to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics -- home to 251 colleges and universities in 37 states -- is moving forward with legislation that will allow its athletes to earn unlimited compensation for use of their NIL while maintaining their eligibility.
Previously, the NAIA had sought to put a governor limiting athletes to "reasonable" compensation before determining it would be next to impossible to fairly officiate whose NIL checks were reasonable and whose were not.
"There's a little bit of the factor we're going to be forced to do this at some time point anyway (by Congress and the states)," NAIA commissioner Jim Carr told CBS. "Might as well get out and do it on (our) terms than being told what to do."
Part of the reason the NAIA is comfortable moving forward with an unlimited NIL structure is that the vast majority of its athletes are on partial scholarships, so any income earned will more than likely get its athletes back to neutral.
"If they can go out make a little extra money to pay for the rising cost of education, then it's something we should allow them to do," Carr said. "For us, the risk of creating a recruiting advantage because of booster or influences like that are much smaller than it is at the highest levels of the NCAA."
In the short term, getting new rules on the books quickly could give NAIA schools a recruiting advantage against NCAA Division II schools.
While the Trevor Lawrences, Justin Fieldses and Sam Ehlingers of the world would gobble up almost all of the national endorsement dollars to be had, the NIL market could create dozens of micro-economies in which small-college athletes could do quite well, relatively speaking.
I'm thinking specifically of players like Morningside College quarterback Trent Solsma and wide receiver Connor Niles, the record-setting duo who combined for 34 touchdown passes in 2018 alone en route to a national title. While those two would not have parlayed that success into 7-figure deals with Nike and Gatorade, they and NAIA athletes like them could easily earn in the high 3- and low 4-figures (and I may be low here) capitalizing on their notoriety in the form of autograph deals at the local oil change place, running camps back at their hometown high schools, and/or advertising drink specials at the campus hot spot on their social media platforms.
The NAIA planned to vote on this legislation at its annual convention April 1 in Kansas City, but the coronavirus will push that meeting online.
The issue is undoubtedly more complicated at the NCAA (particularly the FBS) level, but it's not an issue that only matters in FBS. While the NCAA deliberates, the NAIA is taking action and its athletes (and the schools they compete for) will benefit.