Lawmakers agree NCAA needs NIL help, but how much and when?

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A federal law governing how college athletes can earn money off their fame and celebrity seems certain to pass – at some point.

There is no real debate among lawmakers on Capitol Hill about whether athletes should be permitted to monetize their name, image and likeness.

“There is broad consensus that Congress should pass a law that grants athletes NIL rights,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said Wednesday during a hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee.

But less than a month before NIL laws go into effect in several states, NCAA President Mark Emmert was back in Washington renewing his plea for help from Congress – help that is unlikely to come as soon as the NCAA would like.

For some lawmakers, federal regulation of college sports should not end with NIL and the time is right to tackle other issues – from long-term health care and educational opportunities for athletes to more uniform and enforceable safety standards.

“To race to just an NIL bill and not address these injustices is tragic,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a former Stanford football player, said before Emmert and five other witnesses testified before the committee.

Wicker wants to take a different approach, calling for a “more focused bill on a faster timeline.”

Emmert said the NCAA plans to act on its proposed NIL legislation soon.

“Preferably by the end of the month,” Emmert said.

The Division I Council meets June 22-23 and could take action then, but only a federal law can preempt state laws in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico that are set to go into effect July 1.

Earlier Wednesday, Connecticut became the 19th state to pass NIL legislation. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has sponsored with Booker the sweeping College Athlete Bill of Rights, said he would block any federal NIL bill that is less permissive than Connecticut’s.

“We need to listen to the athletes,” Blumenthal said. “They are the ones who are all too frequently outnumbered in this conversation.”

There were no athletes among the witnesses who testified at the fifth NIL-related hearing in Congress over the past year, but chairwoman Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said there was a plan to hear from a panel of athletes in the future.

College sports leaders have warned a patchwork of state laws will make it impossible for schools that compete against each other to do so on a level playing field.

“The impact would be enormous,” Gonzaga men’s basketball coach Mark Few told the committee. “You’d be at a huge competitive disadvantage, both when student-athletes are coming out of high school and when they have the opportunity to transfer.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) scolded Emmert and the NCAA for not taking care of the NIL issue sooner.

“This is why the states have taken it upon themselves to do what the NCAA has proven incapable of doing,” said Blackburn, who also took direct aim at Emmert. “Don’t you think it is time to call your leadership of the organization into question?”

Emmert said that was a question for the university leaders who sit on the NCAA Board of Governors. The board approved a contract extension for Emmert in April.

Emmert reiterated the NCAA wants a national NIL law that would preempt state laws, keep college athletes from being employees of their schools and provide limited antitrust protection from future litigation.

The NCAA’s NIL proposal would place so-called guardrails around deals athletes could make to protect against third-party payments being used as recruiting inducements or pay-for-play.

Most of the state laws that have been passed also place some limitations on the types of NIL deals athletes can do.

ESPN college football analyst and former Stanford football player Rod Gilmore, who also holds a law degree, said guardrails benefit the NCAA more than athletes.

“Players have been treated like second-class citizens,” he said.

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) ended the hearing by asking each of the panelists if they thought college athletes should be able to profit from their names, images and likenesses.

After each answered, yes, Lujan asked: “So why is this taking so long?”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who did not participate in the hearing, is one of the most vocal critics of the NCAA in Washington. He agrees with Booker that college sports needs broad reform, not just an NIL law. Murphy and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) recently introduced a bill that if passed would allow college athletes to organize and collectively.

Murphy said complicating this issue in Congress is overlapping jurisdiction. The judiciary and education committees can also weigh in. He said a solution is not coming as quickly as the NCAA would like.

“I can make an educated guess that there is no way something’s passing by August,” said Murphy, who has put forth one of six NIL-related bills that have been introduced in the House and Senate since December.

“The NCAA’s argument is that the sky’s going to fall if all these state laws become operative,” Murphy said. “Why not test that theory? Why not let these state laws come on the books and see if the result is a nasty, hard-to-manage competitive imbalance?”

Florida-based attorney Darren Heitner helped lawmakers in that state craft an NIL bill. He said he has read every state bill that has already passed and sees them as largely similar. He also doesn’t believe schools operating under different NIL rules will be nearly as disruptive as some college sports leaders have portrayed – as long as the NCAA itself puts its own rules in place soon.

“If the NCAA does nothing at the end of this month and we have five to eight states that have effective NIL laws as of July 1, I think the chaos really is by and between those states that have and those that have not,” Heitner said. “And I think you’ll find a lot of very disgruntled athletes across the country in those states that have not yet approved name, image and likeness rights, or at least their laws are not yet effective.”

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.