The NCAA as we’ve known it is dead.
Specifically, the group that was created to enforce rules that are being systematically exposed as widespread antitrust violation has been gutted. And it will only get worse.
The latest confirmation that the body has no pulse comes from a federal court in Tennessee, which granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit attacking the NCAA’s rules regarding NIL payments. Specifically, the NCAA cannot punish athletes or boosters for negotiating name, image and likeness deals in the recruiting process, whether the athlete is picking his or her first school or whether he or she is in the transfer portal.
The ruling isn’t final, but preliminary injunctions — orders which force a defendant to do something or to stop doing something while a lawsuit is pending — don’t get entered unless the judge believes that there’s a strong likelihood that, when the final decision is made, the plaintiff will win.
It’s no surprise. The various colleges and universities are independent businesses. Under the federal antitrust laws, they can’t come together and agree to limitations on how people make money.
The violations have been hiding in plain sight for decades. The reckoning has arrived, and it keeps boomeranging around college sports, knocking down any efforts to limit individual revenue under the outdated and corrupt notion that there’s some inherent appeal to amateur athleticism.
The appeal is to those who would otherwise have to pay the athletes for their performances.
It’s going to keep happening until the NCAA cries uncle. At some point, there will be a massive verdict encompassing all of the antitrust violations that fall within the appropriate statute of limitations.
As we’ve said since the NIL floodgates first opened, the college sports system is getting the chaos that they deserve. The NCAA member universities managed to break the law and delay the full and final accounting, while exploiting young men and women for many, many years.
Weep not for the fat cats who essentially stole money by brainwashing everyone into thinking that tuition, fees, room, board, books, and snacks were more than good enough. It always should have been determined by the free and open market, with players striking the best deals they can with schools and boosters and anyone else who wants to pay them.
The time is coming for the NCAA and its member institutions to pay up. The time is overdue for the NCAA’s ability to tell athletes how they can and can’t earn money to perform a Triple Lindy into the dustbin of history.
Demarcus Robinson is sticking around Los Angeles.
Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Robinson has agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract with the Rams for 2024.
Robinson became a key contributor for Los Angeles’ offense in the second half of the 2023 season. He finished the year with 26 catches for 371 yards with four touchdowns. He also took a 23-yard carry.
Robinson, 29, was about to become an unrestricted free agent next month. A fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft, Robinson has caught 219 passes for 2,508 yards with 20 touchdowns for the Chiefs, Ravens, and Rams.
The Cowboys have hired Cristian Garcia as a defensive quality control coach, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reports. He will help returning Cowboys defensive backs coach Al Harris with the secondary, per Gehlken.
Garcia ended last season as the Commanders’ interim defensive backs coach after changes to Ron Rivera’s defensive staff.
Garcia worked with new Cowboys defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina in Washington. New Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer hired Zgonina last week.
Garcia spent three seasons in Washington, first as a defensive coaching assistant and then as a quality control coach. He began coaching in the NFL following a brief stint as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech.
The Cowboys also have added former defensive end Greg Ellis and run game coordinator Paul Guenther to the staff. They lost defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and position coaches Aden Durde, Joe Whitt Jr. and Sharrif Floyd from their defensive staff.
The Rams are keeping around one of their offensive contributors.
Los Angeles announced on Friday that the club has tendered exclusive rights free agent Ronnie Rivers.
Rivers, 25, was a reserve running back for the Rams in 2023. Appearing in nine games with one start, he recorded 129 yards on 32 carries and five catches for 22 yards.
Rivers entered the league in 2022 as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State. He spent time with the Cardinals and Seahawks before landing with the Rams.
The 49ers released veteran cornerback Isaiah Oliver on Friday, the team announced.
The move saves $2 million in salary cap space.
Oliver appeared in all 17 games last season, but he played only four snaps or fewer per game in six of the last nine games. He did not play a single down on defense in the postseason but saw action on 35 special teams snaps.
He totaled 58 tackles, two passes defensed, one interception and one fumble recovery in 2023.
Oliver originally signed with the 49ers last March.
The Falcons made him a second-round pick in 2018, and Oliver spent his first five seasons in Atlanta. He played 62 games with 38 starts for the Falcons.
In his six-year career, Oliver has totaled 270 tackles, three interceptions, 36 passes defensed and three forced fumbles.
The Steelers have moved on from one of their key offensive linemen.
Pittsburgh announced on Friday that the club has released starting center Mason Cole.
Cole, 28, had served as Pittsburgh’s starting center for each of the last two seasons. He played 100 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2023.
The Steelers signed Cole to a three-year deal in March 2022. Arizona had selected Cole in the third round of the 2018 draft and he played 46 games for the franchise before he was traded to Minnesota in 2021. He appeared in 14 games with seven starts for the Vikings that season to finish his rookie contract.
With Cole’s release, the Steelers will save $4.75 million against the cap.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy will not attend next week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Todd Archer of ESPN reports.
McCarthy and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will remain at The Star working on staff hirings and changes to the defensive scheme.
It marks the second consecutive year McCarthy will remain home from the Combine, participating in virtual interview sessions with prospects who are in Indy.
McCarthy didn’t attend most of the Combine last year after parting ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and taking over play-calling duties for 2023. He flew to Indianapolis for a few hours to meet with the media but quickly returned to The Star to continue working on changes to the offense.
Rams coach Sean McVay is among other head coaches who won’t be in Indianapolis next week.
The Falcons are holding onto their long snapper.
The team announced that they have re-signed Liam McCullough on Friday. McCullough was set to be an exclusive rights free agent, so there wasn’t much doubt about his return as he would have been tied to the Falcons once they made a tender offer for his services.
McCullough, who went undrafted out of Ohio State in 2022, has snapped in every game for the Falcons over the last two seasons. He has been credited with six tackles while covering kicks.
Kicker Younghoe Koo and punter Bradley Pinion are signed for next season, so the Falcons are set to have all the key members of their kicking operation back for another year.
It’s been more than a month since the Eagles’ season crashed to an end with a playoff loss to the Buccaneers, but this week saw renewed discussion of why their season collapsed after a 10-1 start.
Some of that discussion included reports of serious dissension in the locker room and Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown took some time on Friday to respond to the chatter. Brown called into WIP on Friday afternoon and said the Eagles “gave you the answers” about what went wrong down the stretch, but that “these are rumors that you guys are making up and everybody runs with” because they didn’t like the team’s answers.
“The locker room is fine,” Brown said. “Players wasn’t executing, that’s what it came down to. I think the media ran with the coaches, blame the coaches. I never blame the coaches, I’m not the person to blame the coach. . . . It was the players not executing.”
Brown called any suggestion that his relationship with quarterback Jalen Hurts is frayed “total BS” and that “I want to be here, it’s as simple as that” when asked if he’s happy with the Eagles. He said any perception that he’s frustrated with the team is incorrect and that any emotional sideline interactions are part of holding my players accountable” and pushing everybody in the locker room.
Brown signed off by saying that anyone spreading rumors about the Eagles needs to find another job, but chatter about how things ended in Philly are likely to go on until they have a chance to get back on the field and win some games.
The Dolphins are moving on from veteran cornerback Xavien Howard.
Howard will be cut at the start of the league year, according to multiple reports.
That’s no surprise. Howard will be 31 in July and is coming off a season-ending foot injury, and cutting him shaves $23 million off the Dolphins’ salary cap.
Howard was a 2016 second-round draft pick of the Dolphins who has been a first-team All-Pro once and a Pro Bowler four times. He’ll generate interest in free agency, but it appears that he’ll play 2024 in a city other than his longtime home of Miami.