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Emmert Addresses Federal Pushback and Critics in Remarks to NCAA

During his “State of College Sports” remarks Tuesday, Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said he is “extremely frustrated and even disappointed” with the United States Department of Justice’s suggestion that the association’s pending rules for allowing athletes to profit from their personal celebrity may violate antitrust law.

A DOJ letter sent by a department official on Jan. 8 delayed a scheduled vote by the NCAA Division I Council on name, image and likeness, or NIL, legislation, which was set to take place Monday. The association was “ready to take a big step” to support students’ NIL rights, but moving forward with the plans is now “ill-advised,” Emmert said during his remarks, which were part of the NCAA’s annual convention that will span the next two weeks.

“Because of an enormous amount of issues surrounding all of this, issues that, frankly, are beyond our control, it is now a very ill-advised thing for us to do at this stage,” Emmert said. “So we have to pause on this progress. And I’m very disappointed in that. More importantly, all of our college athletes are profoundly disappointed and I suspect even angry.”

Emmert said the NCAA is still committed to move forward with NIL “modernizations” and with changing Division I rules for athletes who transfer to different colleges, which were also at issue in the DOJ’s letter.

Emmert also addressed “critics,” some of them “within college sports,” who have recently called into question the significant wealth institutions gain and spend in athletics. One of these critics is the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a group of current and former college leaders that advocates for college sports reform, which recently published a proposal to separate top Division I football from the NCAA to increase oversight of the most lucrative programs in the sport. Under the proposal, football players would have NIL rights.

“There are those that think in fact that we should even take that part that’s most entertaining and most lucrative and carve it off the association, set it over here and turn that into a pure entertainment industry with paid professionals,” Emmert said. “I couldn’t disagree more. We are not just the entertainment industry. The single most important outcome for all but a tiny fraction of our athletes is to graduate from college with a meaningful degree.”

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