WASHINGTON – NCAA President Charlie Baker on Thursday continued the organization’s push for federal legislation addressing the ability of college athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness during an appearance at a conference sponsored by the University of Arizona titled “The Future of College Sports.”.
But Baker – who moved into the job March 1 – covered an array of other topics, including eye-opening comments on the prospect of the NCAA making money from sports betting. Baker also discussed the NCAA attempting to increasing revenue in other ways, including from its upcoming negotiations for media rights to championships in sports other than men’s basketball.
Baker said he believes that because of the 2024 election cycle, for a federal law related the name, image and likeness (NIL) issue to pass anytime soon, it will have to happen this year. One bill already has been in introduced and at least two more are in process.
Baker said the assocition wants an NIL bill to include a registry of deals’ terms, a certification of agents and the mandate of a uniform standard contract for the deals. Meanwhile, Baker NCAA said the association will continue to work on the issue, in case Congress doesn’t act.
“One way or another,” he said, “I believe there needs to be a framework in place — whether it’s ours or a congressionally mandated one — by the end of the year.”.
OPENING UP: Incoming NCAA president Charlite Baker talks athletes as employees, NIL.
NCAA sees sports betting as ‘major opportunity’
Sports betting long had been anathema to the NCAA. It was among the sports organizations that joined in a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey aimed at preventing the spread of legal sports betting beyond Nevada. However, the Supreme Court ultimately issued a ruling that has led to the spread of sports betting to dozens of states.
Baker on Thursday said: “That’s a major opportunity, right in front of us. We have a major opportunity to get into the sports betting space and recognize and understand between social media and 31 states legalizing it and anybody who has a phone being able to bet from any place they want and two-thirds to almost three quarters of all people between the ages of 18 and 22 betting on sports” there a chance to do something about that.
At the same time, he cautioned about the impact that sports betting could be having on college athletes.
“The truth is, if there are lots of kids on campus betting on college sports and betting on the teams on their campus, this puts student-athletes in a very difficult position. … (The NCAA needs to) create a program that we hope we’re going to get everybody to endorse around helping them develop the tools and techniques (athletes are) going to need to deal with this stuff.”.
Championship rights deals for women’s basketball, other sports
The recent huge TV ratings success for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament came at a perfect time for the association: It is now heading into the final year of its contract with ESPN that covers championships other than men’s basketball. But he also vaguely touched on the NCAA possibility hoping to improve its ongoing, much longer term deal for the men’s basketball tournament.
In a world of endless viewing and streaming choices, Baker said: “College sports, which is appointment viewing, has taken on a whole new standing with respect to its position relative to other forms of media entertainment. And I think there are huge opportunities here. But I would never dream of giving anybody who might be waiting to hear anything from me about where I think the biggest and best play’s going to be until we actually get into the brass tacks of negotiating something. ….
“But we dramatically underperform across a whole bunch of other revenue raising opportunities. … And those items are going to get a lot of attention from us over the course of what I would describe as the next four to six months.”.
Lack of NIL rules ‘doesn’t work well for anybody’
Revenue production is not the only place Baker said he felt that the NCAA has underperformed. In his most pointed comments about the association’s direction on NIL prior to his arrival Baker said: “I think it was a big mistake for the NCAA not to do a framework for NIL when they had the opportunity.”.
He went on: “I think there were too many people in college sports who thought no rules would work really well for them. What everybody’s discovered is no rules, no transparency, no accountability, no framework doesn’t work well for anybody. And that’s one of the reasons why I think it’s possible that Congress may be interested in doing something about this, because you do have a situation where it’s basically impossible to find anybody — student athletes, families. Coaches, AD’s, college presidents, anybody who thinks the current system is working.”.
Baker has spent a considerable amount of his time with the NCAA thus far trying to convince federal lawmakers of the merits of bringing a national-level solution to an NIL environment that now varies widely from state to state due to a patchwork of NCAA rules and state laws. An even greater state-level threat potentially comes from California. The first state to pass an NIL law, its Assembly has approved a bill that would create the possibility of revenue-sharing payments for college athletes; the bill is now pending with the state Senate.
Baker said he has been encouraged by what he said he has heard on Capitol Hill.
“The buzz and the response of most the people I’ve talked to in the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, key committee members and all the rest — I haven’t talked to anybody yet who thinks that way currently we’re doing this is good for anybody,” Baker said. “That’s usually the first push you need to get folks to actually say, ‘Well, then what are we going to do to fix this?'”.