Speaking Kurtly

I understand the basic idea behind compensating college athletes for the use of their name, image, and likeness. I think it’s a fantastic idea that a college soccer player who returns to her hometown to run a clinic would receive compensation for that work.

The problem with the concept of NIL was always that, once the rock starts rolling down the mountain, a full-on catastrophic rockslide is often not far behind.

The argument that athletes are being “used” by the NCAA is an intriguing one, but I always wonder where the chicken and egg analogy comes into play. Did anyone outside local high school fans and a few junkies who follow high school football recruiting know who Johnny Manziel was until he wore the laundry associated with Texas A&M?

I always believed there was a reason the NCAA waited forever to change the rules regarding athlete compensation. Someone in Indianapolis had to know this was one of those massive rockslide situations. There was no way it could be managed to fairly compensate college athletes and not be abused as a big-money recruiting tool.

Enter politics- sure to turn any good idea into a massive disaster.

State legislators began playing politics with the popular idea of paying college athletes and, of course, every state needed to have its own set of rules. The NCAA responded by opening Pandora’s box and throwing the door open to wholesale, largely unregulated NIL and then begged the federal government to step in and establish rules. Like that is ever a good idea.

The problem is compounded by the cancelling of almost all rules related to athletic transfers. Now, you have full blown recruiting wars, players in the “transfer portal” and schools making promises – some which they can keep and others which they can’t.

The latest comes from Missouri, where the state legislature passed a law that extends NIL to high school athletes, but only if they sign to attend an in-state school. The state government has taken an active role in college recruiting. That can’t go wrong at all.

During recent conversations with political candidates, I hear a lot about political overreach and different levels of government. The feds should stay in their lane, the state should leave local governance to the counties and cities. I totally agree.

Decisions should be made by the entity most closely tied to its implementation and most closely associated with the consequences that follow.

NIL is a classic example of what happens when governments stick their noses where they don’t belong. I hope someone somewhere will see it as a cautionary tale of the kind of chaos that can follow government overreach at any level.

My biggest concern with NIL is that it is almost fully focused on football and college basketball. Early implementation has done some good in compensating that soccer player for that clinic in her hometown, and there are cooperatives that are providing some funding for athletes in various other sports, but how long before that money dries up and this just becomes what it is – a new way to funnel huge dollars to college football.

When that happens, and as conferences continue to consolidate and spread over wider geographic areas, I’m concerned that the powers that be are ignoring the unintended consequences – the impact that will follow damaging women’s sports and “minor sports.”

Call me naive, but I always believed the NCAA was built to capitalize on the sports that generate larger revenues to open up opportunities for athletes who play all kinds of sports, regardless of the revenue they produce, getting young men and young women opportunities at a quality education. Those days may well be numbered, and state legislators can take a great deal of the credit.