Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
I have so many announcements and things to share with you. Let's get into it.
First, I've added a few new features to Extra Points. When I originally moved from Substack to Ghost, I had to disable commenting. Now, commenting has been restored! While you're always welcome to email or tweet me, feel free to comment at the bottom of newsletters as well.
Second, if you would prefer to LISTEN to your Extra Points newsletter, instead of reading it, I am experimenting with a service that has an AI read the newsletter. You can find an audio version of the free newsletters right here on Spotify. I'm still working out some kinks, but the first few episodes sound pretty good. Paid newsletters, for now, will be text-only.
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Did I say podcast? That's right! If you haven't listened to it already, the official podcast of Extra Points, Going For Two, released a fun new episode earlier this week. You can listen to it on this page, or wherever you download your podcasts.
We caught up with my friend and former colleague, Bud Elliott, of CBSSports and 247Sports. Bud is an expert on a topic that has vexed me for my entire professional career, and I wanted to explain it to me, on the air, for your benefit.
Bud...can you explain Florida?
Specifically, we asked Bud about things like:
- Florida has been one of the most important college football recruiting territories for years. But why doesn't the state produce more top-quality quarterbacks?
- What's the relationship like between powerhouse boarding school IMG and high schools throughout the state?
- Is Florida recruiting, and specifically South Florida recruiting, as important as it used to be?
- How does Florida's state investment in K12 education impact the trajectory of not just local high school football, but college football?
Also, there's an extended discussion here about Spanx. But I promise it's actually completely relevant.
I think you'll enjoy this episode. I learned a lot, and playing armchair anthropologist is one of my favorite things about Extra Points. If you care about college football, or even high school football, I also recommend you give my man Bud a follow. Or as we like to call him, Buuuuuuuuuuud.
Before we get to the last huge news item of today, I'd like to quickly tell you about a sponsor of Extra Points, Playbook Products.
Many of you know I'm a sucker for college sports memorabilia. My office has more vintage college pennants than a high school guidance counselor's office. I have a blueprint of the Rose Bowl hanging up there too.
Playbook Products makes some legitimately cool additions to any fan's office, home and more. They take the Xs and Os of some of the most memorable plays in sports, and turn them into handsome coasters, posters, mugs, facemasks, and more. Plus, it's not just college sports! They've got playbooks from professional football, hockey, basketball, and more.
You can check out the entire catalog above. Extra Points receives a small commission for every purchase made from this link.
I've written a lot about various state and federal NIL related bills. Heck, I just did that earlier this week.
As significant as those bills may be, they all pale in comparison to the College Athlete Right to Organize Act, or CATO, introduced yesterday.
One of the bedrock principles of NIL reform has been the idea that allowing athletes to earn compensation from third parties for their NIL doesn't make those athletes employees of the university. As currently structured, that's true. But CATO seeks to blow that argument up, and make it explicitly clear that college athletes are employees, and thus, also eligible to unionize and collectively bargain.
If we are being charitable, we could say that the concept of amateurism in college athletics has evolved over the last several decades. If we want to be less charitable, we'd say that it means whatever the NCAA says it means. Regardless of how charitable we want to be, I think it's clear that if CATO became law, amateurism, however you want to define it, would be dead.
A few other high level components of this bill include:
- Rewriting the National Labor Relations Act to define any college athlete who receives direct compensation from their college, as an employee. Presumably, that would not only include almost every D-I athlete, but also several D-II, and even NAIA athletes.
- Directing the National Labor Relations Board to consider colleges within a specific athletic conference to be a bargaining unit. So rather than one big college athlete union, or a college football specific union, as I understand it, you'd have a Big Ten union, or an America East union.
- Prohibiting colleges from forcing athletes to waive their right to collectively bargain in order to earn a scholarship.
Will this bill pass? Almost certainly not
There's a legitimate bipartisan coalition in Congress to work on NIL reform, although Republicans and Democrats still tend to disagree over how open the NIL market should be, and what other college reforms should be tacked onto it. But that agreement hinges on the concept of not establishing an employer-employee relationship. It's almost impossible to imagine a single Republican in the Senate agreeing to this idea, and I can think of several Democrats who wouldn't either. The votes aren't there.
But that isn't the point. I think proposing this bill serves two purposes.
One, this is a chance to reset the Overton Window a bit during NIL negotiations. By continuing to aggressively frame college athletics reform as a labor and civil rights issue, Murphy, and other NCAA reform hardliners, can apply pressure to the leftward flank in the Senate to push for a more aggressive NIL bill. Since the Democrats control the Senate, and even an empty motion to say "weekends are pretty great" would get a dozen opposing votes, any NIL legislation that actually passes is going to have heavily Democratic fingerprints on it. I see this proposal as a way to make sure the final NIL bill doesn't look too much like say, Sen.Moran's proposal.
This is also about wanting to fight for gains for organized labor, generally. A National Labor Relations Board that asserts the authority to declare athletes at public universities as employees is a National Labor Relations Board that would have increased authority to do the same for, say, graduate students. If college athletes should unionize, and a group at, say, Boston College...and win some concessions, well, that may make unionization at public entities a little easier to stomach in the South. If ditching a Right To Work Law is what's needed to get four-star recruits, well, some lawmaker is going to propose that, right?
Over the long run, will this effort be successful? I don't know. Do I support it? Honestly, I don't know. Do I plan to interview more experts and try to understand this issue and the potential implications on a deeper level? That's my hope.
But I think I can at least understand what's going on here. I wouldn't frame this as a FINALLY THE NCAA IS DOOMED story. I'm not sure this would even pass in a 60-40 Democrat controlled Senate, which is very much not what exists right now.
But Overton Windows can shift rapidly. After all, embracing the idea of NIL would have been a pretty radical idea eight years ago. Now, it's pretty mainstream. Now, Sen.Murphy and Sen.Sanders are proposing a pretty radical idea.
Will we still think so in a decade?
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