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Conferences urge stopgap for NCAA on NIL until federal law

The NCAA is set to consider on Tuesday how to proceed with reforming rules that currently prohibit college athletes from earning money off their fame, the day after the association was dealt an emphatic loss by the Supreme Court.

NCAA President Mark Emmert has urged membership to forward on a proposal that has been stalled for months and said he would take executive action if it remained stuck.

Six Division I conferences, including the SEC, ACC and Pac-12, have put forth an alternative stopgap measure that cuts out the NCAA and allows athletes to be compensated for name, image and likeness before a federal law is passed.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in an athlete compensation case not related to NIL makes finding an NIL solution more complicated for the NCAA, Emmert said Monday. The Supreme Court loss means the NCAA is still exposed to further legal attacks, but Emmert insisted it is the association’s responsibility to put forth a solution.

“And I believe that the rest of the membership will agree,” Emmert told The Associated Press. " “Whether that means we’re going to pass or can pass a full new set of rules or do something temporarily in the meantime is less important to me than the fact that we’re going to be able to provide students with an opportunity to pursue NIL opportunities.”

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press and sent to the head of the Division I Council last week, commissioners from six conferences recommended the council refrain from adopting the proposed NIL reforms when it is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday.

Emmert also sent a memo to the association’s member schools Friday, pushing for an NIL solution before the end of the month when six state laws go into effect. Asked what he thought of the commissioners’ alternative, Emmert steered back to the big picture.

“We need a solution that’s going to be as fair and equitable as possible, that mitigates as much misbehavior around booster involvement and or recruiting inducements as we possibly can,” he said. “And we now are going to spend this week determining exactly what that looks like.”

The NCAA has asked Congress for a federal NIL law that would preempt state laws and help provide a uniform standard for its more than 1,100 member schools. But lawmakers in Washington are not close to passing a bill.

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott wrote in the letter to the Division I Council that the NCAA’s broad NIL proposal would be vulnerable to legal challenges and would invalid in states with their own laws.

The commissioners for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference also signed the letter to Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun, who is chairwoman of the council.

They also sent a proposed alternative to the NCAA’s current NIL proposal that would go into effect July 1 if adopted. That proposal was obtained by the AP.

The proposal would allow athletes in states with NIL laws to follow those laws when they go into effect. Schools in states without NIL laws would adopt their own policies that would permit athletes to be paid by third parties - but not by boosters of a school -- for things like endorsement deals, personal appearances and sponsored social media posts.

Those policies would be used until a federal law is passed.

The NCAA’s proposed NIL reform legislation was scheduled to be voted on in January, but that was delayed because of questions raised by the Department of Justice about potential conflicts with antitrust laws.

There was also some support within college sports for holding off on NIL rules until after the Supreme Court delivered its decision.

Sports law attorney Darren Heitner, who helped craft Florida’s NIL law, said Monday’s Supreme Court decision bolsters that case for an NIL solution in which the NCAA is more hands-off.

“It provides more power to those conference commissioners who suggested that the power be provided to the individual schools as opposed to adopting the legislation that’s been on the table for quite some time,” Heitner said.