Two weeks after Condoleezza Rice and the Commission on College Basketball were lambasted for spending six months to come up with a largely useless set of recommendations for how to fix the sport, the former Secretary of State is trying to save face.
Rice and her cohorts called for the end of one-and-done (which is out of the NCAA’s control) and lifelong scholarships for athletes that go pro; to wash those rare good ideas out, they also threatened to reinstitute freshman ineligibility if the NBA didn’t axe the age limit, pushed for more NCAA involvement in youth sports, called for harsher punishments, and refused to form an opinion on giving athletes the right to their name, image, and likeness.
Speaking with USA Today on Wednesday, Rice went on the offensive in an attempt to smooth over the negative reception to the group’s suggestions. Rice told the newspaper that contrary to the final report published by the commission, the group does indeed support a college athlete’s right to profit off their own name, image, and likeness—Rice claimed there was nothing the commission could do because the matter is currently the federal legal system’s problem to fix. Rice also claimed that nobody on commission “was intending to punt” on the issue:
“We believe that students ought to be able to benefit from name, image and likeness but you can’t decide a program until you know the legal parameters,” Rice told USA TODAY Sports. “That was the point. I think some of the commentary suggested that we didn’t really speak on this issue. I think we did speak on this issue, it’s just that we understand there’s a legal framework that has to be developed first.”
“I think people may have looked at the fact that we said there’s a legal framework to be developed and said, ‘Oh, well, maybe they’re punting on this.’ Nobody was intending to punt on it.”
On the day of the report reveal, I wrote that “Rice and the commission fucking punted as fast as they could when it came to the topic of an athlete’s right to profit from their own name, image, and likeness.” That was not a hyperbole, it was an accurate statement.
This paragraph, from page 38 of 53 of the commission’s final report, is one of only three instances that granting an athlete their right to their own NIL is brought up. (The other two mentions consist of a simple definition of what NIL is on page 37, and a footnote on page nine, listing the price-fixing lawsuits the NCAA is currently embroiled in.) Here’s the commission’s most fleshed out thought on NIL:
A number of members of the Commission were drawn to the idea of reforms in this arena. However, given the lack of legal clarity on this matter, the Commission was concerned about the unintended consequences of such changes. See ES Section 1.D. The Commission recommends that if the legal context changes or clarifies, the NCAA should remain open to rule changes addressing student-athletes and NIL.
If you spend six months studying the way amateurism works out financially in relation to top-tier athletes with the stated goal of fixing college basketball, and you then bring back a report that reads “the NCAA should remain open to rule changes addressing student-athletes and NIL,” you have punted.
After a big splash and PR push, the Committee on College Basketball turned out to be no different from any other pointless committee the NCAA has put together over the years, dealing only in half-measures and short-term interests—minimal reform efforts will result in minimal reforms, and then we get to all come back in 10 years and have Rex Tillerson head up the Commission To Unfuck College Sports, Pt. II