When the news broke, the retweets came fast and enthusiastically, with one person after another applauding the NCAA Board of Governors via social media for voting unanimously on Tuesday to soon permit student-athletes to "."
But that's the thing about Twitter.
Sometimes you still need to click the link and read a little more to fully understand what's real and what isn't. And what those of us who clicked the link and read a little more discovered fairly quickly is that this development doesn't actually mean what the NCAA wants you to think it means. Oh, sure, it's a move in the right direction, I guess. But it's important to note that the NCAA is only interested, by its own admission, in allowing student-athletes to "benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness" if it happens in a "manner consistent with the collegiate model." Those are the details the NCAA kept off Twitter. And those are the details that make this development less than what it appears.
Among other things, the NCAA plans to "prohibit inducements [for student-athletes] to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution," which is unsurprising but still problematic -- if only because, and I ask this honestly, exactly how does the NCAA think it's going to allow student-athletes to "benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness" while also holding tight to guidelines that "prohibit inducements [for student-athletes] to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution?"
That's a tough needle to thread.
Even Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith acknowledged as much.
"That's the elephant in the room," he told USA Today. "It's hard."
More like impossible.
For instance: Let's say a banker who doubles as a Duke fan wants to pay the Blue Devils' point guard to be on billboards and help advertise his bank. But then the NCAA steps in and says, "Hey, we don't believe you're really just trying to advertise your bank. We think you're trying to keep Duke's point guard in school another year. So we're not going to allow you to do that because it's against our guidelines."
How can the NCAA legislate intent?
And even if the NCAA does figure out a way to legislate intent -- to be clear, it won't because it can't -- what the NCAA is planning to do will still fall well short of what California, as a state, has already committed to doing, which state senator Nancy Skinner highlighted upon hearing the news.
In other words, California has made it clear that the NCAA must meet its standards or prepare to fight in court. So, it seems, the NCAA will eventually fight in court -- with California and others to be named later. Congrats to the lawyers who will get rich in the process like they're college administrators or something.
Don't be fooled.
Yes, the NCAA made a big announcement on Tuesday that appears to be a step in the right direction. But it's only a small step. And given that there's no obvious way to allow student-athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness without things happening that the NCAA claims it will not allow, well, it's reasonable to also label the entire thing a misstep, same as it usually is.