Why the NCAA is doomed to fail in attempts to corral pay-for-play deals disguised as NIL

Blake Toppmeyer John Adams

The new rules are really a reminder of the old rules.

The NCAA released its much-awaited NIL guidance to try to stem pay-for-play recruiting inducements funneled by boosters and collectives.

Essentially, that guidance boiled down to this: Follow the rules on the books that prohibit pay-for-play recruiting inducements, or else ...

Or else what, exactly?

NCAA enforcement is more toothless than ever, and deals have been made under their nose for months without interference. Are we supposed to believe that a reminder of the rules will put this train in reverse?

On this edition of "SEC Football Unfiltered," a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams argue that the NCAA's reupped guidance amounts to little more than saber-rattling.

Last June, the NCAA said boosters and college athletes may enter into NIL agreements, "provided the activity is in accordance with state laws and school policy, is not an impermissible inducement and it does not constitute pay-for-play."

And here's what the NCAA announced Monday: NCAA recruiting rules preclude boosters, which could include collectives, from recruiting and/or providing benefits to prospective athletes. 

TOPPMEYER:Here are 8 SEC rivalries that will flourish after Texas football, Oklahoma join | Opinion

ADAMS:NIL deals could help build a formidable Tennessee Vols walk-on program | Opinion

ANALYSIS:Will NCAA actually punish schools for 'outrageous' NIL violations? Big questions remain after latest recommendations

Other than stating that collectives may be deemed boosters, nothing changed.

In a perfect world, this all seems easy enough: Legitimate endorsement deals for college athletes are OK. Pay-for-play recruiting inducements for prospects or transfers that are contingent on the athlete selecting a particular school are not OK.

Fair enough, right?

However, actually enforcing rules against pay-for-play recruiting inducements seems like a fool's errand and one that the NCAA has not attempted so far. 

For starters, NCAA enforcement has no subpoena power. What incentive do athletes, boosters or collectives have to cop to a recruiting inducement? 

Also, many have speculated that any attempt by the NCAA to thwart these deals may be challenged with an antitrust lawsuit.

Finally, part of the NCAA's enforcement strategy asks schools to "report any potential violations through the traditional self-reporting process."

WANT MORE OPINIONS FROM TOPPMEYER AND ADAMS?: Subscribe to the SEC Unfiltered newsletter for multiple exclusive columns each week

In other words: If a school suspects malfeasance, it should tattle on itself, and then maybe NCAA enforcement will slowly get around to trying to police this activity.

Toppmeyer argues that all this will achieve is encouraging these deals to move below the table, like the good ol' days.

Later in the episode

  • Is five-star quarterback Arch Manning really going to choose Texas over powers Alabama and Georgia? Many recruiting experts think so, and Toppmeyer and Adams explain why the idea of Manning in burnt orange isn't far-fetched, despite the Longhorns' relative lack of success for more than a decade.
  • The SEC no longer embodies "old-man football." Toppmeyer says the conference's depth of quarterback talent is as good as he can remember. But Adams can recall a similar crop of QB talent in the SEC. You just have to go back more than 50 years. In 1970, Pat Sullivan starred for Auburn, while Archie Manning did the same for Ole Miss, Bobby Scott for Tennessee, Scott Hunter for Alabama and John Reaves for Florida. Adams compares the SEC's current cradle of quarterbacks to that season.

Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered





Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is a senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered