NCAA Begins Trying to Rein in NIL, But There's No Going Back Now

NCAA Men's Final Four - Previews
NCAA Men's Final Four - Previews / Streeter Lecka/GettyImages

On Monday the NCAA fired its first salvo attempting in rein in NIL payments student athletes have been receiving. The new guidance takes a shot at NIL collectives in an attempt to rein in some of the activity flying around recruiting circles. But it's too late now to stop the NIL train.

The NCAA had its chance to have a say in what shape NIL would take in college sports and instead decided to take a back seat. It allowed conferences to write their own rules. The NCAA's only rule was that a school and its employees couldn't pay an athlete directly. Other than that, it was pretty much open season.

As was expected, groups began popping up that represented the interests of athletic departments and could pay players for their services. These NIL collectives are typically composed of donors that pool money to funnel money to the student athletes. Some of the deals being bandied about by those collectives have raised eyebrows across the sports landscape. And those collectives have likely been pitching directly to potential recruits.

On Monday the NCAA finally released some NIL guidance and it was aimed squarely at collectices. The new rule says that collectives will be treated the same way school boosters are. That means they are not allowed to have direct contact with recruits. It's a first shot fired in an attempt to rein in what has essentially become the Wild West.

But here's the thing: NIL has become this crazy because the NCAA abdicated any responsibility for governing it. Now it realizes things have gotten out of control and there need to be rules. Everyone said that the moment we knew NIL was coming. But the body governing college sports just stepped aside and unleashed a tidal wave.

Even if the NCAA attempts to crack down on collectives, it's far too late to really institute any meaningful reforms. That chance was wasted and the horse is out of the barn now. Yes, there may be token enforcement of blocking collectives from talking directly to recruits, but those groups will get the message of potential future earns through to players somehow. It'll be a mess and exactly what the NCAA doesn't want.

In the end, Mark Emmert and the NCAA have only themselves to blame. They had a chance to lead the way on NIL by instituting hard rules and regulations. They opted not to and now it's almost impossible to keep up with all the latest deals being offered.

There is no going back.