On Friday, September 9th, 2022, NCAA President Mark Emmert sat for an interview with sports business analyst Kristi Dosh. Emmert’s free-wheeling comments covered various issues, including NIL regulation, athlete employee status, and the future of college sports. Emmert proposed that athletes be treated as “brand ambassadors” for their institution. Emmert explained that athletes—particularly revenue-producing athletes at big-time schools—provide enormous value to their university’s brand and should be paid accordingly. He suggested that these payments could be deemed NIL-related based on the value that individual sports and athletes contribute to overall university branding. Under Emmert’s model, athletes would not be employees of their university. Emmert also advocated for congressional intervention in NIL (and other) regulations. His brand ambassador model is a stunning departure from the NCAA’s/P5’s decades-long approach to amateurism-based compensation limits. Emmert provided a distorted history of the factors that led to the current perception of regulatory chaos in college sports, particularly NIL. Emmert addressed the circumstances under which the NCAA ceased its voluntary rulemaking on NIL in January of 2021, rule-making that it had promised athletes in 2019. According to Emmert, the Antitrust Division s directed the NCAA to immediately stand down on voluntary rules changes on NIL and transfer because of “antitrust concerns.” The head of the Antitrust Division at the time, Makan Delharim, offered a much different explanation for the NCAA’s cessation of voluntary rulemaking in a June 24, 2021 podcast interview. The truth of the NCAA’s decision-making in January 2021 is a window into the NCAA’s renewed strategy in 2022 to ask for a congressional bailout that would end the athletes’ rights movement.


The Business of College Sports Podcast: “The Future of NIL and Compensating Athletes with Mark Emmert” (9/11/22)

Trustees and Presidents – Opportunities and Challenges In Intercollegiate Athletics Podcast: “NCAA v Alston: An Interview With Two Key Behind-The-Scenes Players: Ramogi Huma and Makan Delharim” (6/24/21)

On Sunday, September 11th, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “The Transfer Frenzy That Is Turning College Football Rosters Upside Down.” As the title suggests, the Journal pitched the new transfer market as out of control. This episode analyzes the Journal article and the ease with which influential media outlets embrace and reinforce false NCAA/P5 narratives. Contrary to the Journal’s thesis, the football transfer market is no more “frenzied” than the transfer markets for many non-revenue sports or higher education transfer rates more generally.

On Friday afternoon, September 2, news broke that the CFP Board of Managers voted to expand the CFP from four to twelve teams. This decision is historic and fundamentally changes the post-season football market. It follows years of anguished debate and conflict among and between the Power Five conferences on the appropriate CFP format. The CFP expansion saga was a reliable storyline for the sports media through 2021 and into early 2022. Indeed, the twists and turns of the expansion debate became an online soap opera. Sports media outlets appeared to have CFP expansion sources at the ready 24/7. Curiously, however, there was scant discussion of the possibility of expansion leading up to Friday’s bombshell announcement. The ACC led a values-based opposition to expansion in 2021 and early 2022. The Big Ten and Pac-12 joined in. Changes to the CFP format require unanimity among the CFP governing boards. In January 2022, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said he would veto any expansion until the ACC conducted a 365 review of big-picture college sports issues through a values-based lens. Less than eight months into its year-long study, the ACC (along with the Big Ten and Pac-12) did a U-turn on expansion. This episode discusses the CFP’s corporate structure, its relationship to the values of the NCAA/higher education, and the expansion decision and circumstances that led to it.

On August 17, 2022, the NCAA released a statement titled “DI Council reviews transfer proposals.” The Council accepted recommendations from two obscure committees (Independent Accountability Oversight Committee and Infractions Process Committee) to eliminate the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP). The IARP was a separate infraction and enforcement process for “high stakes” NCAA cases. The Commission on College Basketball—formed in 2017 in response to the basketball-related criminal cases in the Southern District of New York—recommended the IARP as an alternative to the “old” conflict-ridden infractions and enforcement bureaucracy. The IARP was not fully operational until August 2019. The IARP received only six cases (all basketball-related) between March 2020 and February 2021. From its inception, the IARP became the target of criticism from prominent college sports leaders such as Greg Sankey. Sankey argued that cases assigned to the IARP were taking too long. The sports media and NCAA governing board leaders reinforced this narrative. This episode analyzes the IARP and the criticisms that led to its elimination. The death of the IARP is a case study in star chamber NCAA decision-making.