Condoleezza Rice clarifies her stance on amateurism, “Students ought to be able to benefit from name, image and likeness”

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Calling the NCAA’s rules “just incomprehensible” Condoleezza Rice touched on concerns about the name, image and likeness debate in college sports in a USA Today editorial and interview on Wednesday night.

After the NCAA-established group led by Rice received a heavy amount of criticism for failing to address a number of issues with college sports, namely amateurism, Rice tried to provide a clearer picture of her stance on the debate.

The commission previously said it supported the collegiate model with regard to NLI (name, likeness, image) in its initial release two weeks, indicating that they did not have any interest in further discussing the matter due to pending litigation involving the legality of amateurism.

Rice clarified her position in the editorial and interview by providing a more full response.

“We believe that students ought to be able to benefit from name, image and likeness but you can’t decide a program until you know the legal parameters,” Rice said in an additional interview with USA Today. “That was the point. I think some of the commentary suggested that we didn’t really speak on this issue. I think we did speak on this issue, it’s just that we understand there’s a legal framework that has to be developed first.”

The language in the commission’s report left a lot of people confused. Commission member David Robinson also expressed his belief that student-athletes should be able to benefit from NLI on Monday but that the Commission didn’t further address the issue because the potential legal ramifications.

Rice would like to see changes in the structure that would allow student-athletes to profit off of their NIL, but she also cautioned that the legal framework needs to be put in place in order to do so. That pending litigation involves nine people, including four college assistant coaches, as well as cases like the

“I think people may have looked at the fact that we said there’s a legal framework to be developed and said, ‘Oh, well, maybe they’re punting on this.’ Nobody was intending to punt on it,” Rice said.

Schools showing more support for student-athletes was also mentioned in the editorial. Among Rice’s suggestions include eliminating the one-and-done rule (beginning in 2019-20), allowing student-athletes to “test” the NBA draft while retaining eligibility if they don’t sign professionally, while also allowing more transparency in permitting student-athletes to consult agents and other professionals to better assess their future prospects. These were all topics that were suggested by the Commission two weeks ago.

Rice also suggested giving student-athletes who complete two years in good standing the “full funding to return to college and complete a degree” — which would give incentive to potential pros looking to leave early who are on the fence about leaving school.

Cheating and bad behavior was another major talking point for Rice in the editorial, as she hopes to have stiffer penalties for offending schools. Rice called for a system of compliance that would be out of the control of the NCAA, as she offered some scathing criticisms of how the NCAA has handled enforcement in the past.

“The NCAA no longer has the credibility to carry out this function,” Rice said of compliance. “Universities and their employees need to be compelled to cooperate by agreeing in advance to do so and they should be punished if they don’t.”

A five-year ban from postseason play and the NCAA tournament was also suggested by Rice for cheating programs in order to get people’s attention.

Summer basketball and “AAU” also was touched on in the editorial as Rice wants to require youth basketball tournament operators and shoe companies to be transparent about their finances. There is also the hope that the NCAA can develop its own tournaments “with very strict standards of behavior” over time.

While the amateurism debate wasn’t touched by the commission in the last report, Rice commented on the group’s decision to focus on problem areas they could fix.

“Others are disappointed that we do not recommend abandoning the collegiate model.  We have focused instead on addressing abuse of it. Athletes who want to play professional sports should do so. But the decision to go to college should be at its core, a decision to pursue a college degree,” Rice said.

Rice also showed optimism in potential reform by saying that many of the key entities involved want to make changes to how things happen.

“The NCAA has said that it is ready to enact these reforms. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have said that they will “assess” their eligibility requirements – we hope in order to end the sham that is one and done,” Rice said. “University presidents, athletic directors and coaches say they are anxious to step up. Apparel companies and others say they are ready to support greater transparency. We shall see.”