As the NIL space—or rather, the pay-for-play-disguised-as-NIL space—has quickly evolved in a short amount of time, booster collectives have become a preferred method for many donors to get involved.
These collectives have wasted no time throwing around a lot of money at big-time high school and transfer prospects, making a total mockery of the whole pretense that NIL wasn’t pay-for-play. Of course it’s pay-for-play. It was always going to be. (And that’s fine.)
Now the NCAA would like to force these collectives to pump the brakes, as they are totally and completely embarrassing the NCAA by reminding everyone how completely it failed to prepare for this moment. The NCAA is currently rushing through some new guidelines for the NIL process like a high school kid trying to finish his homework in the 15 minutes before class starts.
The guidelines, still in draft form, outline that booster-backed collectives should be prohibited from associating with high school prospects and college transfers, potentially opening the door for contentious legal challenges between the association and booster groups.
Here’s the thing, though—and this is pointed out in the article: it’s pretty difficult to prove that the intent is pay-for-play. These big-money guys are going to have the receipts on this stuff, and hey, if it seems like paying a five-star quarterback $2,000,000 to endorse the banana stand I just put up last week is excessive, well, too bad. That’s just how much I value his endorsement for my new venture!
So we’ll see just what exactly the NCAA tries to make stick here, but it’s unlikely to make much difference in the bigger picture. This is where it would have helped for the NCAA to get out in front of things, rather than exist in denial.
Trying to define the playing field after the game is well underway ain’t gonna work, and I’m sure whatever provisions get codified by this truly impressive group of bureaucratic imbeciles will be lukewarm at best. But boosters will have to have their lawyers scan the new guidelines right quick before getting back to the business of recruiting on behalf of their favorite school, so at least it’ll slow them down for five minutes.