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February 22, 2020
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New York Times - Sports

The N.C.A.A. Says It’s Working to Change. Next Year, at the Soonest.

The N.C.A.A. Says It’s Working to Change. Next Year, at the Soonest.
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Alan Blinder and Billy Witz

The law also instigated a far louder reckoning for the N.C.A.A. and its longstanding rules restricting players’ financial opportunities.

N.C.A.A. officials and supporters insist that the organization is willing to adjust its system to a point. M. Grace Calhoun, the Pennsylvania athletic director who leads the Division I Council, which oversees the most prominent parts of N.C.A.A. competition, suggested that the organization could ease obstacles for, say, basketball players to give lessons.

But Calhoun also made plain that the N.C.A.A. would only be rewriting so many rules.

“We’re dealing with student-athletes, and when you look at the principles we’ve established, we won’t cross that line from them being students to turning into employees,” she said.

Although Calhoun said officials were working “very aggressively” to come up with proposals, the N.C.A.A.’s rule-making structure relies on a labyrinth of committees and forums. The system seeks the views of about 1,100 member institutions, which could deepen frustrations and skepticism because it all but precludes a speedy resolution.

Still, the proposals will begin to take shape between now and April, when the first drafts are expected to emerge. Three N.C.A.A. subcommittees, which are examining athlete work opportunities, individual licensing and group licensing, will soon offer ideas, and feedback will also come from conferences, Olympic sports organizations and students.

Group licensing — a team’s presence in a video game, for example, a fan-favorite issue online — may prove the most thorny, Calhoun said, because such an arrangement can veer toward students being considered employees.

N.C.A.A. members probably will not sign off on any changes until January 2021, and even those would probably not apply until later in the year. Even a January 2021 approval would come months after some state legislators hope their California-style proposals will take effect, though legal experts have said that the N.C.A.A. or its members would probably be able to persuade courts to block those measures, at least temporarily.

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