NCAA Division I Council delays vote on transfer rules and name, image and likeness

The NCAA Division I Council on Monday decided to table votes that had been scheduled on proposed changes to rules regarding athletes’ ability to transfer and to make money from the use of their names, images and likenesses, a person familiar with the decision told USA TODAY Sports.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak in advance of an announcement by the NCAA.

The decision comes in the wake of correspondence Friday and Saturday between the Justice Department’s antitrust division leader, Makan Delrahim, and NCAA President Mark Emmert in which Delrahim expressed strong concerns about the association’s direction on transfers and athletes’ use of the names, images and likenesses (NIL).

Emmert told Delrahim on Saturday that he had “strongly recommended” to the Council and the Division I Board of Directors that they delay votes scheduled for Monday and Thursday, respectively.

The NCAA Division I Council did not vote Monday on proposed changes to rules regarding athletes’ ability to transfer and to make money from the use of their names, images and likenesses. (Photo: Matt Slocum, AP)

The person said there already had been some sentiment within the Council to delay action on the name, image and likeness proposals, but the Justice Department's interest crystalized the matter.

The Council did not set a new target for action on the proposals, the person said, but there is strong interest within the group to seek a conclusion on both the NIL and transfer proposals. The question is how quickly NCAA officials can meet with Justice Department officials and gain clarity on the department's position amid the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. The Council has been meeting monthly.

Technically, Monday's action by the Council took the form of recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors that it take no action the transfer and NIL proposals.

The Council is a 40-member panel comprised mainly of athletics administrators, including conference commissioners and athletics directors. The Board has 24 members, nearly all of whom are university presidents or chancellors.

Any action taken by the Council is not considered final until it also has been approved by the Board. But a decision by the Council to delay action could essentially be overridden by the Board. However, in this case, that is seen as unlikely.

The name, image and likeness rules change would enhance athletes ability to make money from their name, image and likeness, but with certain potential restrictions about which Delrahim expressed concerns.

The scheduled transfer rules change vote would address the five remaining Division I sports in which athletes generally are prohibited from playing for one year if they change schools. Delrahim was critical of an aspect of the transfer process that is not currently set to be changed.

Even before the letters between Delrahim and Emmert, there had been conversations among college presidents, conference officials and athletic administrators about delaying the vote until there’s more clarity about federal government action.

Those conversations were being driven by three primary considerations:

►The Supreme Court’s decision last month to hear the NCAA’s appeal of a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the NCAA cannot limit benefits related to education that college athletes can receive. 

►Uncertainty about what kind of bill Congress might vote on to regulate name, image and likeness issues, the scope of which could change given the results of the runoff elections in Georgia last week that will flip the Senate from Republican to Democratic control this session. 

►A lack of detail given to NCAA membership about how a third-party clearinghouse would function to vet name, image and likeness deals signed by athletes to ensure they are not de facto recruiting inducements.

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