As Colorado and other schools around the country try to navigate the new world of college athletics, Rick George wants the NCAA to step up to the plate.
Last summer, the NCAA made a dramatic change by allowing student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). What the NCAA didn’t do was set guidelines on how NIL would work.
Instead, schools in the 19 states with NIL laws would follow those rules. Schools in the other 31 states would figure it out themselves. It has led to what George describes as “chaos” around the country.
“I don’t think the NCAA is performing their role,” George said Thursday when he met with the media. “To allow the NIL to get out of hand like it’s gotten is not acceptable and we as an industry have to embrace getting this back together so we have some guidelines that are consistent across our industry.
“There’s some things out there that I’m disappointed in that some schools are doing because I think some of it falls under inducements.”
While NIL was set up to allow student-athletes an opportunity to profit from their name, image and likeness, it is not supposed to be used for recruiting inducements or pay-for-play situations. Some of the NIL deals that have become public seem to give certain schools an advantage.
For example, it was announced last month that six Texas supporters set up a group called Horns with Heart. The nonprofit has a deal where every scholarship offensive lineman at Texas will get $50,000 annually for the use of their NIL in supporting charitable causes.
Supporters of other schools, such as Miami and Nebraska have also set up deals to benefit large groups of athletes. BYU has an endorsement deal with Built Bar, which includes NIL agreements with every member of the football team.
“It’s an area that really needs some governance nationally,” George said. “There’s so many different ways that people are going about it. I do have concerns about some of the NIL opportunities and programs that are in place around the country. … We’re gonna have to look at it as an industry and figure out how do we get a handle on this because I don’t think there’s a handle on it today.”
Part of George’s frustration is that he was part of the group that was trying to get a handle on it. In the spring of 2019, George was one of 18 people named to an NCAA committee charged with exploring NIL legislation. For two years, the group researched NIL and was developing a plan.
“We were moving down the path to put up some really good guidelines for name, image and likeness, to protect from pay-for-play and all these other different areas that we have inducements and those kinds of things,” George said.
Prior to last year, the NCAA had not allowed student-athletes to profit from their NIL. A group of former student-athletes, led by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, challenged the NCAA and last summer, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the NCAA could not enforce rules preventing NIL compensation.
“At that point, the NCAA decided that, ‘We’re not going to put any guidelines out there,’” George said. “In my opinion, we could have done a lot more as a body, as an NCAA, and we didn’t. We didn’t put anything in place. … It’s really changing our industry in a way that I don’t think is good.”
George supports athletes profiting from their NIL but believes there needs to be a uniform set of rules. He said the 18-member NIL group hasn’t met since last summer.
Asked if the group should meet, George said, “If the NCAA decides that they want to put some guidelines in place, yes. We have a framework that would have been good that is sitting on a shelf somewhere.”
George believes the lack of NIL guidelines has impacted the influx of players putting their names into the NCAA transfer portal. As of Thursday morning, more than 1,000 scholarship players from the FBS – including 14 from CU – had put their names into the portal since Aug. 1.
“I do think there are people that go into the portal to see what opportunities they’re going to have in the NIL space,” George said. “As I look at things, I think it falls under inducements.
“As an industry, we need to get our arms around this sooner rather than later.”
While George wants to see NIL reform at the NCAA level or from conferences working together, he said CU will continue to do what it can to help its student-athletes.
CU was one of the first schools to launch a NIL education program, Buffs With a Brand, in the summer of 2020. George said CU is also working with INFLCR (The Contact Platform for Elite Athletes) to create a marketplace for businesses to connect with student-athletes for endorsement deals.
“That will allow our student-athletes to engage more with business and get other opportunities,” George said. “We’re very confident in what we’re providing our student-athletes in all the programmatic needs that they need and this is another area that we’re focused on and we’ll work hard on as we move forward.”