Day 2 Recap of NCAA Convention 2024 – Special to Sports Law Exper

Day 2 Recap of NCAA Convention 2024 – Special to Sports Law Exper

By Kasey Nielsen and Joel Nielsen, of Bricker Graydon

The second day of the NCAA Convention was as action-packed as the first, but two issues stood out.

  1. NCAA goes (back) to Washington

Perhaps in a nod to its recent track record, the NCAA doubled-down on its position that federal legislation is the best avenue for a more uniform system.  Specifically, the Association is seeking to advance four priorities (and tell us if you’ve heard these before):

  • NIL protections for student-athletes;
  • that student-athletes should not be considered employees;
  • a way for the NCAA to operate without the persistent threat of litigation (the antitrust exemption); and
  • preempting state law to allow for uniformity across Association membership.

NCAA President Charlie Baker said that the Association would “need some sort of protection and special status from Congress.”  That’s just what they’re after.

Restructuring College Athletics through the Conferences

Everyone has an idea of what the future of college athletics should look like.  From a shift to the professional model to preserving the “unique educational nature” of the existing model – or at least the version immediately before the existing model – there are no shortage of ideas.  Now we have a new one to add to the mix.  The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics presented a model, called the Connecting Athletics Revenues with Educational Model (C.A.R.E. Model).  C.A.R.E. is predicated on the idea that conferences need to adopt certain requirements prior to schools receiving their “piece of the pie.”  Based on what we heard and read, it sure sounds like these requirements are fairly aligned with the NCAA’s existing foundational/constitutional values.

C.A.R.E. is aimed at incentivizing four categories: (1) Transparency, (2) Independent Oversight, (3) Incentives for Core Values of Education, Gender Equity, and Opportunity, and (4) Financial Responsibility for Education, Health, Safety, and Well-Being. Within each category are requirements and benchmarks for institutions to follow. For instance, the third requirement incentivizes schools to achieve academic success, provide equitable opportunities for both female and male sports, and offer a broad base of sport opportunities. The final category is an attempt to limit schools on spending large sums of money on coaches contracts, and instead require athletic departments to spend that money on student-athletes.  Panelists even discussed a luxury task.

The C.A.R.E. model champions a conference-based approach because, according to the Knight Commission, it is more likely to withstand antitrust legal challenges.  We’re not entirely sure that argument would be on all fours with antitrust law but it does shift the discussion a bit.

As of today, all DI schools would meet the target numbers required under this new model except 44 of the autonomous institutions, which are some of the highest resourced institutions of the 350+ Division I members. This is largely attributed to the last category, as those schools spend a majority of their revenue on salaries, buyouts, and other non-student-athlete areas.

The Knight Commission is encouraging conferences and institutions to adopt the model immediately and are offering up to $100,000 in grant money motivation. Up to 21 college coaching organizations are already in support of the Knight Commissions new model. Many of the non-revenue producing sports see this as a deterrent to dropping programs in the future world of college athletics.

This will be one proposal to watch to see if it gains any significant momentum in future days/months. To learn more about the details of the C.A.R.E Model, see here.

NIL Violations

While not tied to the Convention, we saw the NCAA penalize Florida State for NIL-related violations. An assistant football coach facilitated an impermissible recruiting contact between a transfer student-athlete and the CEO of a NIL collective– violating the recruiting bylaws – and that CEO impermissibly offered a NIL deal to the transfer student-athlete to encourage the player to attend Florida State – violating the NCAA’s NIL interim rules. Florida State agreed to a list of penalties.

This is the second time the NCAA has penalized an institution for NIL-related violations, which should put schools on notice that this could be a trend.