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Volume 27 No. 29
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SBJ All-Access: The Name Game, Presented By NATA

Every year when we hold our annual gathering for leaders in college sports, it seems the issue at the time could be one of the most paramount in the history of college sports or the NCAA. Whether it was the growing revenue bifurcation of schools and a possible secession of the Power 5; whether it was implementing cost of attendance that would increase expenditures at many schools, adding to a greater delta between the haves and have nots; or whether a college football playoff would result in damage to the bowl system. But this year's Learfield IMG College Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in Manhattan felt a bit different: it actually felt like the principles around the student athlete and the role of the NCAA in that relationship will change. And that’s because a much larger, more unpredictable institution is now involved in college sports: the U.S. Congress.



Mark Emmert addressed a media scrum following a talk that touched heavily on NIL rights
  • NCAA President Mark Emmert has one major priority in 2020 -- guiding the organization through the choppy waters of name, image and likeness (NIL). Emmert, during a one-on-one interview yesterday, said NIL-related issues dominate 75% of his time -- nothing else even comes close. When he says NIL is his top priority, that means spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill educating the politicians. “There's no question in my mind that the vast majority of universities understand that we need to move into a period where we're modernizing our rules,” Emmert said. “We've got to be able to modernize our rules consistent with the legal environment that we live in.” With that, Emmert has been lobbying hard for Congress to come up with a national set of NIL regulations so that the rules don’t change state-to-state.

  • While there is now a more tolerant attitude toward NIL, Emmert said, “A completely unfettered sponsorship model, like some state bills are anticipating, could very quickly slide into an employee-employer relationship. If you have the schools, for example, helping line up a deal with the car dealership for $100,000 and they're working with an agent of a 17-year-old, … how do you describe that as anything other than an employee-employer relationship? Now, where does that leave us? So, one of the great challenges here is how can you, in a current legal environment, create a model that provides benefits of all types without triggering professionalization.”

  • Some of the headlines from Emmert's talk from news outlets around the country:

  • Beyond Emmert, NIL was discussed by a number of panelists during Day 1 of the conference: 

    • SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey: "How do we maintain opportunity equality, things that we've established across our athletics programs, and then pivot to perhaps an updated model?”

    • Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby: "Fast and the NCAA legislative process are not often mentioned in the same sentence."

    • Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany: "Do we need to modernize our rules? Yes. Is it going to be a difficult thing to achieve? Yes. But I think it will be achieved."

    • Knight Commission Chair and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: "The NCAA and others have been way, way, way too slow in getting to this point. ... I talk about those small number of athletes who are generating those kinds of revenues, and they're going to those elite, elite athletic schools. Maybe those schools should be in their own conference or their own separate thing, away from the NCAA."

    • Temple AD Patrick Kraft: “It’s going to happen. I don’t worry about it. It doesn’t keep me up at night. ... My concern, personally, is where are the guardrails going to be."

    • Michigan AD Warde Manuel: "We need to look at this as how does this help and assist and provide that outlet for our student-athletes that we want to create."

    • San Jose State AD Marie Tuite: "When we went to cost of attendance, there were people who thought the sky was falling, and then we went to APR, and it was, ‘Oh my gosh!’ When the NCAA took over women’s championships in 1980, we thought the sky was falling. It’s part of the evolution of the enterprise of athletics and moving it forward. It just has to be done in the correct way, and it takes some time to get there.”

    • Cal AD Jim Knowlton: "We spend every waking moment trying to provide for student-athletes, so this has been a great opportunity … to go back and look at what we are doing."

    • UConn women’s lacrosse player Kiera Dalmass, who sits on the National Division of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee: “How does it affect our international student-athletes? How does it affect the internet, the student-athletes who are from minority groups, like women? How do you differentiate between that? What about state lines? If I'm from a state university and somebody else is from a private institution from somewhere else, how do we differentiate that type?”



A panel of student athletes addressed mental health rigors that come with playing college sports
  • Issues around mental health and stress were also a pervasive issues on panels yesterday. Michigan's Warde Manuel during the conference's opening panel said he worries about student athletes and the "pressure they put on themselves to succeed." Temple's Patrick Kraft added, "I don't care about you hitting the putt, or you not hitting that free throw. I care about you living every single day." Marquette's Bill Scholl acknowledged from a financial standpoint, mental health has been "very easy to raise money around, to help support these positions." Scholl: "Our donors have really embraced this as being a concern."

  • During a panel comprised of student athletes, Villanova runner Casey Comber said he hopes the NCAA “looks into some kind of a regulation requiring schools to have mental health counseling for student-athletes.” Comber: “I've seen some kids that really couldn't handle it. Your teammates can be a big, big crutch -- and parents. But some kids are far away from home. They're quiet. They don't know who to talk to and coaches can only do so much.”

  • Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman joined Hilinski’s Hope Foundation co-Founders Mark and Kym Hilinski to discuss their mission to advance mental health services for student-athletes. The family launched the foundation in 2018 following the tragic death of their son, former Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski, who suffered from depression. The parents, who incredibly were able to keep their emotions in check after an emotional video of their son’s life, offered a powerful perspective on the resources that are available after some 30 recruiting trips with Tyler and their other son, South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski. Mark Hilinksi said, “The resources between mental illness and physical illnesses are very different. And I think we're trying to bring us up to talking about this in the same way, treating it the same way and resourcing it much the same way.” On increasing resources, Ackerman said, “We can all do more online. You may not be able to fly a coach anywhere to get the training, but we’ve embarked on some online training again that could, if nothing else, just sensitize a coach to the spectrum."

  • Later in the day, four former ADs relayed their concerns over the levels of stress that current ADs must deal with in a world of instant social media reaction. Former Virginia AD Craig Littlepage said, "You’re never out of the eyesight of the different stakeholders and constituencies." Former Tennessee AD Dave Hart added, "You have to remember that it’s not just the person in that role. It’s the spouse, the partner, the kids. They’re hearing it and it’s hard." Former N.C. State Debbie Yow said of reaction on social media, "It’s an enhanced pressure. People are so quick to say horrible things in a way they shouldn’t be saying it." Former Pitt AD Steve Pederson said of the pressure on ADs, "People can only take so much pressure. There is a point at which it’s just too much."



Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who specialize in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries, offering a continuum of care that is unparalleled. NATA represents and supports 45,000 members of the athletic training profession.




  • Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman was a speaker at this year's conference on a panel about student athlete mental health and well-being. She also stopped to chat with SBJ about the current media landscape in relation to her conference.

  • With the conference a short commute in from New Brunswick, the Scarlet Knight mascot from Rutgers was on hand to greet attendees yesterday morning. Event sponsor Learfield IMG College also brought in some tailgate tables for the event, courtesy of Victory Tailgate. It was also part of a college tailgate theme for this year's event, which included cornhole boards in the lobby via the American Cornhole League and themed inflatables from Boelter Brands. The tailgate theme extended to lunch yesterday as well, with the menu including cheeseburger sliders, BBQ glazed spicy chicken wings with Alabama white sauce, smoked pork ribs and veggie burger sliders.

  • The Heisman Trophy was also on display for attendees in the afternoon. During a reception after the conference hosted by Barnes & Thornburg, the trophy was a very popular spot for photos. This may be the only Heisman surprise of the week, as oddsmakers have LSU's Joe Burrow as the hands-down favorite to take home the trophy on Saturday night.

  • Texas Tech upset Louisville on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, and during the conference, we heard a story about how Red Raiders coach Chris Beard had some of his basketball players write papers on Jim Valvano and MSG because he wanted to make sure the young students knew the history and the importance of playing at the venue during Jimmy V Week.

  • Dimensional Innovations held a reception late last night at the hotel bar and several execs popped by to unwind after a long day. Among those spotted were DI's Justin Wood and Drew Berst, Generator Studios' Mike Kress, SSB's Steve Hank, Ticketmaster's James Wilson, Mortenson's Erik Johannes, Ewing Cole's William McCullough, GreenFly's Neil Horowitz, DLR Group's Peter Muther and HOK's Kevin Nowak.

  • SBJ was almost down a man before the conference even started this year. Staff writer Andrew Levin, working his first conference for SBJ, was in a cab that had a fender bender on Monday night in Manhattan. Levin slammed his head on the partition in the cab, but made it through concussion protocols and was able to go full speed yesterday.

  • No college conference would complete without strong competition in the sock game. Our winners? Temple's Patrick Kraft, Wake Forest's John Currie and our own John Ourand supporting his Terps.




Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who specialize in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries, offering a continuum of care that is unparalleled. NATA represents and supports 45,000 members of the athletic training profession.