First NCAA NIL-Related Enforcement Resolution Signals What’s to Come

Client Alert

The NCAA issued a strong signal Friday on how NIL and recruitment-related violations will be investigated and sanctioned in the “NIL era.” Going forward, expect that (i) the new rebuttable presumption of guilt standard set forth in NCAA By-law 19.7.3 will govern investigations into recruitment practices involving NIL, (ii) boosters and collectives will be under scrutiny, and (iii) sanctions could include athletic department fines, coach suspensions, and the disassociation of boosters and collectives from college programs.

The Division 1 Committee on Infractions (“COI”) approved a Negotiated Resolution with the University of Miami that penalized recruitment violations stemming from a referral of two recruits by the head coach of the women’s basketball team to a booster, and the booster’s subsequent contacts and dinner with the recruits. The penalties levied on the institution and the head coach included: one year of probation for the program; a $5,000 fine plus 1% of the women's basketball budget; a 7% reduction in the number of official recruiting visits, a reduction of 9 recruiting person days and a three-week prohibition against recruiting communications in women's basketball this academic year;; a three game suspension for the head coach; and disclosure of the infractions on program recruitment materials. In addition, Miami is required to establish a “comprehensive” education program to instruct coaches and athletic department staff on recruitment-related NCAA legislation.

Notably, the COI included a headnote to the decision—in bolded, italicized text—that highlights certain priorities, standards, and sanctions that will inform cases “involving NIL-adjacent” conduct going forward:

  • The COI noted that the case pre-dated the adoption of NCAA By-law 19.7.3, which became effective on January 1, 2023, so that the COI could not presume that NCAA violations had occurred from the “activities around name, image and likeness”.1
  • The COI stated that it was “troubled” that the penalties did not include “the disassociation of the involved booster” from the university. “Boosters are involved with prospects and student-athletes in ways the NCAA membership has never seen or encountered”, according to the COI; therefore, “addressing impermissible booster conduct is critical, and the disassociation penalty presents an effective penalty available to the COI”. Going forward, the “COI will strongly consider disassociation penalties in future cases involving NIL-adjacent conduct.”

Key takeaways:

  • for schools, collectives, and student-athletes: investigations are coming, and those accused will be presumed guilty unless they “clearly demonstrate with credible and sufficient information” that “all communication and conduct complied with NCAA legislation”.
  • for boosters and collectives: expect to face disassociation from a school as a likely threatened sanction for noncompliance with NCAA legislation.
  • for schools: fines, coach suspensions and recruitment restrictions are possible sanctions for violations.

Next steps

Colleges and collectives should pro-actively establish clear policies and controls for (i) relations and communications between them and their employees and representatives, (ii) recruitment-related contacts and communications, and (iii) collecting and maintaining all documentation relating to boosters and collectives, including those that would allow them to rebut any reports or allegations of impermissible conduct. Colleges should also deliver comprehensive education to coaches, staff, and student-athletes regarding NIL and recruitment related NCAA legislation.

1 The By-law requires that “in cases involving name, image and likeness offers, agreements and and/or activities… violations will be presumed to have occurred if circumstantial information suggests that one or more parties engaged in impermissible conduct”. This presumption may be rebutted if the “institution or involved individual clearly demonstrates with credible and sufficient information that all communications and conduct surrounding the name, image and likeness activity complied with NCAA legislation”.



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