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Random Thoughts – Volume XII – Equity Issues: Spring Practices and NIL

Spring practice equity … 

Not all springs are created equal.

Former CU head coach Mike MacIntyre believed in getting in spring practices early. The rationale was that, by starting spring practices in February, the team could:

  • Divide up winter conditioning, with the players able to get back into the weight room after spring ball;
  • If there were any injuries, the players would have a better chance at recovery before the fall; and
  • With spring ball over early, the players could concentrate on finishing up the spring semester strong in the classroom.

Head coach Mel Tucker, conversely, had a different philosophy. Tucker wanted Drew Wilson and the weight room staff to have a full eight to nine weeks with the players before the start of spring practices.

When the strength and stamina of the Buffs in November of Tucker’s 2019 team (wins over Stanford and Washington) is compared with the strength and stamina of the Buffs in November of MacIntyre’s last two teams (big fat 0-fer-7 … with a bowl bid on the line in each game), a case can be made that Tucker was onto something.

Tucker’s methodology was put into place for this spring, with practices to open on March 16th and conclude with a spring game on April 25th.

Now, with spring practices on hold indefinitely, and no methodology currently in place to make that up, one has to wonder if the Buffs, already well behind other schools in their preparation for the 2020 season, haven’t been dealt another unfair blow.

Here’s how far along other Pac-12 schools had gotten in their spring practices before the plug was pulled on all sporting activity by the Pac-12 conference:

School … start of spring practices … planned for spring game:

  • Arizona State … Monday, February 24th … Spring game: March 28th
  • Stanford … Tuesday, February 25th … Spring game: April 11th
  • Arizona … Monday, March 2nd … Spring game: April 4th
  • Utah … Monday, March 2nd … Spring game: April 11th
  • UCLA … Tuesday, March 3rd … Spring game: April 18th
  • Oregon State … Tuesday, March 3rd … Spring game: April 18th
  • Cal … Wednesday, March 4th … Spring game: April 11th
  • Oregon … Thursday, March 5th … Spring game: April 18th
  • USC … Tuesday, March 10th … Spring game: April 11th

Had yet to begin spring practices … Washington; Washington State; and Colorado.

So yes, as fate would have it, the three Pac-12 schools with new head coaches are the only ones without a single spring practice under their belts. Of course, Washington and Washington State have had their coaching staffs in place for some time, while Karl Dorrell was still putting his together in the weeks leading up to spring ball.

If the NCAA figures out a way for schools to even out their practices before the start of Fall Camp, the postponement may actually work to the benefit of Karl Dorrell and his staff. They will have extra time to get to know one another, get to know their players, and have a more productive “spring”.

If spring practices are ultimately not made up, and Colorado will head into the 2020 season as the only Pac-12 South team without any spring practices … after failing once again last fall to get to six wins and the extra practices afforded by a bowl berth …

Well, you get the picture …

Should winter sport athletes be provided another year of eligibility?

With spring sports cancelled, there has been a movement to provide an extra year of eligibility for those sports.

From ESPNIn response to the cancellation of collegiate spring sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA Division I Council Committee has recommended that eligibility relief be provided to all student-athletes who participate in spring sports.

“Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time,” the NCAA said Friday in a statement. “Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and week.”

Assuming the eligibility relief recommendations from the committee go into effect — which is expected — the NCAA will need to adjust its rules about scholarship limits. Those details are expected to be ironed out in the coming weeks.

At Colorado, the spring sports season was just getting underway.  All CU’s sports were competing with the exception of men’s and women’s outdoor track, which would have started on March 20th with the Jerry Quiller Invitational.  Women’s lacrosse owned a 3-2 record (1-0 in Pac 12) with 11 games cancelled; women’s tennis was 8-6 (0-2 Pac-12), with eight league matches remaining; and the men’s and women’s golf teams had each played in three tournaments with three and two events, respectively, left on their schedules before the postseason.  Spring matches in soccer and volleyball will not be held.

For athletes competing in spring sports, there is a compelling reason to allow them an additional year to participate in their sports. “I think for the spring sports athletes, it’s a good idea. I like the idea of some kind of a make-good there and that’s the way to do it,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said Friday.

But what of the winter sport athletes?

For those sports, which includes men’s and women’s basketball and the CU ski team, their year was almost complete. The CU men’s basketball team was awaiting their fate on Selection Sunday, while the women’s team was preparing to host WNIT games as a reward for a winning season. The CU ski team, which had stumbled badly (literally) out of the gates in the opening day of the NCAA skiing championships, was just a few days from concluding its season.

It’s unclear what options, if any, will be considered for winter sports athletes. Because the season was nearly complete, there are significant logistical challenges. However, a source told ESPN that the committee members wanted to discuss the issue further.

One immediate issue, as noted above, would be scholarships. Teams plan on seniors moving on (CU men’s basketball has two – Shane Gatling and Lucas Siewert; CU women’s basketball has one – Quinessa Caylao-Do), with new scholarship players moving in. Do you allow teams to have extra scholarship players? How are teams, perhaps already preparing to take a hit in lower television revenue distributions, going to come up with the extra scholarship money?

We’ll see how the smart folks at the NCAA figure this one out …

Nebraska already getting a jump on NIL … 

This just in … I hate Nebraska.

It has been satisfying the past two decades watching the Cornhusker aura be shattered, and knowing that CU had a say in bringing down the Evil Empire (See: 62-36 in 2001: 26-20 in 2004), as well as in keeping the Empire from Striking Back under Scott Frost (See: 33-28 in 201835-31 in overtime last fall).

Nebraska hasn’t won a conference championship in the 21st century, and is no longer considered a “blue blood” in the modern game.

But that’s not going to stop the Cornhuskers from trying to regain their former status …

From ESPNNebraska announced (this past week) that it will provide all of its student-athletes a first-ever program designed to help the athletes build their individual brands through social media and the digital space.

The announcement will keep Nebraska a step ahead in the name, image, likeness conversation looming within college athletics. In October, the NCAA announced its board of governors had voted unanimously to permit student-athletes the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness as long as it was consistent with the collegiate model.

The board instructed its three divisions to consider updates to bylaws and policies to allow student-athletes the opportunity to use their name, image and likeness as laws have been proposed in legislature across the country urging change.

This move by Nebraska puts the Cornhuskers in the driver’s seat to capitalize on a decision to allow athletes to profit off of their own name and brand by equipping them with the right tools to maximize that value.

CU athletic director Rick George is part of the NCAA working group trying to come up with a solution in the Name, Image, and Likeness debate. In my interview with Rick George last month*, I asked him how CU will be able to compete in a world where other schools  exploit the process (I actually used Nebraska as an example) to gain an advantage in recruiting once a national protocol for allowing players to benefit (i.e., get paid) from their Name, Image and Likeness.

The hypothetical I gave to Rick: It’s now 2023, and there is a national Name, Image and Likeness policy in place. In Boulder, an incoming freshman moves into his dorm, and then goes off to dinner with his position coach and new teammates (not dissimilar to what takes place now). In Lincoln, meanwhile, an incoming freshman moves into his dorm, and finds a note on his door, instructing him to go to “Johnson’s Sporting Goods Store” at 4:00 o’clock. There he finds that a local printer has put together a poster containing the NIL of all of the incoming freshmen, and there is a line out the door of Cornhusker fanatics waiting to pay $10 for the poster; another $10 for a signature; and another $10 for a photo. The delighted recruit returns to his dorm and posts on social media that, without attending a single class or a single practice, he has already “earned” $1,500 as a Cornhusker.

Rick’s response to my hypothetical was largely what you would expect, basically that the working group was aware of this type of concern and was trying to come up with solutions to keep the playing field level.

Will the NCAA be able to find means by which the use of Name, Image and Likeness will properly benefit student-athletes (like Jeremy Bloom), without allowing schools to improperly use the process to create an even deeper chasm between the haves and the have-nots.

I have my hopes … I also have my doubts.

Here’s hoping that CU will find a way to remain relevant in the new world of allowed exploitation of Name, Image, and Likeness …

*In case you were wondering if you missed my interview with CU athletic director Rick George, you have not. It will be a part of my still to be released first CU at the Game podcast. I had hopes of putting the premiere episode out this week, in conjunction with the start of spring practices. But now, along with all sports, the podcast is on hold. I may put it out soon, anyway, depending on how the sports landscape evolves over the next few weeks.

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5 Replies to “Random Thoughts – Vol. XII”

  1. Most readers will be too young to remember this, but in the 1970’s we had a great running back out of Co Spgs named Terry Miller. He thought about going to the good CU team, but ended up at crummy OK State. Why you ask? Well he was given a summer job at a local bank which paid him a lot of money in those days to be a “loan officer in training”. I got this from another OSU football player who was on the team with Terry at the time. I fear the same thing is gonna happen again. Couldn’t some SEC farmer put the image of a 5* recruit on his honeywagon and call it advertising to his pigs? However, just like a bribe or illegal booster offer, the money will be real to the kid’s family.

  2. Honestly when the NIL goes into effect, there will probably be about 20 teams who will actually be competing for the National Championship each year, and the rest, including CU, will be also rans. I’ll still watch but really just to see if they get to a bowl game which will be for everyone else, outside those 20 or so teams.

  3. I really haven’t followed the NIL thing. Are the Huskers allowed to initialize their program without the NCAA’s approval? If they are what will happen if they run afoul of the NCAA regs when they come out?
    And what are the limits for the athlete, if any? Will they be allowed to endorse businesses verbally? or will it just be a place where the biz owner can post a picture of the athlete using their services or goods? and probably more importantly will there be any limit on the money an athlete can rake in? Even if there are limits of some kind it seems this just opens up another area for cheating…..by making prior cheating legal it might open the door for huuuge cheating.
    There is no doubt at all in my mind this will increase the gap between the haves and have nots although I dont think its gong to help Nebraska that much. I know they have a big fanatic fan base but how far can you go with Runzas and feedlots? And what about that perv RB Frost kept around? Could he use his likeness at a porn shop?
    Anyone out there that can help with some perspective?

    1. I don’t believe Nebraska can put anything in place until the NCAA sets up its guidelines (the working group was supposed to have a proposal put together by April, but that may be on hold for now).
      I can see Nebraska – and other schools with fanatical bases – taking advantage of the NIL system. If you are a four-star offensive lineman at Highlands Ranch, and you are being recruited by CU and Nebraska, and Nebraska offers you $10,000/year just for being a part of the “Golden Corral Boys of Lincoln” … where you would you end up?
      Lincoln doesn’t have anything over Boulder, but if you are paid (legally) to go there … how is CU going to compete for recruits?

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