Since mid-March when COVID-19 became front page news, and also foremost in the minds of many university athletic directors, college athletic departments have seen their lists of concerns grow.
Trying to hold sports competitions this fall in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic while keeping the student-athletes safe and healthy is only part of the equation. Social justice concerns, the economic fallout, accusations of insensitive comments and actions by coaches and staff members are some of the others on the list of modern day problems.
But while the list of issues NCAA institutions is dealing with continues to grow, that doesn’t mean the old dilemmas have been forgotten.
Prior the pandemic, the topics of Name, Image and Likeness, as well as a one-time transfer waiver for all student-athletes, were front-burner issues.
Admittedly there are other situations that are getting more attention right now, but that doesn’t mean that NIL and transfer waivers are being completely ignored. Neither is being talked about by the public as in the past, but the details for each continues to be sorted out.
“We were trying to get the resolutions to Name, Image and Likeness about the time the pandemic struck, and that feels like years ago now,” noted WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons in a recent interview with the Blue & Gold News. “There continue to be discussions about it, and I know there are discussions in Washington, D.C. with Congress about it.”
The concept behind NIL is to allow student-athletes to make profits in ways that previously were not allowed by the NCAA – through endorsements, appearances, holding camps, etc. Like many ideas, approving NIL comes down to working out the details.
“It’s just a matter of what guardrails are put up around Name, Image and Likeness,” explained Lyons. “We can’t have this being used in the recruiting process. We can’t have a rogue booster providing $10,000 for a student-athlete to come sign autographs for an hour at a car lot. That’s not reasonable. Name, Image and Likeness on the surface is one of those things that sounds great, but we need to make it as equitable as we can for everyone across the country.
“I’m not opposed to a student-athlete using Name, Image and Likeness, but how do we do it within the college environment to make it equitable from one institution to the next?” asked Lyons, who has been WVU’s A.D. since 2015.
Allowing all student-athletes who are in good academic standing the opportunity to transfer once at any point in their college career without having to obtain a waiver in order to receive immediate eligibility may not seem quite as complex as NIL, but it too has some potential pitfalls that the NCAA wants to sort out before it is allowed.
“I’m on the working group for transfer waivers, which is a byproduct of me being on the Football Oversight Committee,” explained Lyons. “We meet once a week. Like so many things, the devil is in the details with that issue. It seems easy on the surface, but at the same time, you don’t want to have a free market with kids transferring all over the place on potentially multiple occasions.
“We want to make sure the academic part of it is a large component, because if you continue to transfer and lose hours, you never are getting closer to graduation.”
Some think the approval of the one-time transfer waiver will take place by early next year. Lyons isn’t ready to put an exact time on it, but he does admit it’s likely to happen sooner rather than later.
“I do think there will be changes with the transfer rule in the coming months or after the first of the year, but what that exactly looks like is not definite yet,” he said. “There are a lot of people working on that.”
The current NCAA rule requires a waiver for student-athletes who wish to transfer up from a Division II or III college to a D-I school, or across from D-I to D-I, in the sports of football (FBS), men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball or ice hockey. Student-athletes in all other sports can transfer once without the need of a waiver for immediate eligibility.
“One thing we want to do is make it consistent across all sports,” said Lyons of the transfer process. “Why do the one-time transfers apply to a lot of sports, but not football, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, etc.? We want a rule consistent across all sports. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.”
Despite the new problems facing college athletics, the NCAA hasn’t forgotten the old issues. It continues the work, though more in the background than previously, to find solutions for what not long ago were hot topics.