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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The college sports landscape could change more in the next six months than it has in the last 50 years, as the NCAA grapples with new competition, new laws and new rules.

How it works... 1. Startup leagues: Investors are flocking to new leagues that aim to compete with the NCAA, evidence of just how much opposition there is to the amateurism model — and how much belief there is in new ones.

  • Driving the news: Sports media startup Overtime has raised $80 million ahead of the fall launch of its basketball league, which will offer high schoolers six-figure salaries to skip college. Investors include Jeff Bezos, Drake and 25 active and former NBA players.
  • Plus .... The Professional Collegiate League, which plans to pay college athletes, just inked a TV deal. And of course, the NBA's G League paid top recruits upwards of $500,000 to skip college this past season.

2. NIL legislation: Congress is expected to discuss a federal name, image and likeness law in the coming months, but more and more states are unwilling to wait for lawmakers — or the NCAA — to act.

  • The latest: 10 states have passed laws that will allow athletes to sign endorsement deals: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey and New Mexico. 14 more have active bills.
  • What's next: Laws in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and New Mexico take effect in July. If the NCAA hopes to buy itself more time, it will need to file lawsuits in each state, notes ESPN's Dan Murphy.

3. Transfer rules: The NCAA Division I Council voted last week to grant all athletes the ability to transfer once and be immediately eligible.

  • Why it matters: This will fundamentally alter the college football and basketball landscapes, where transfer rates were already skyrocketing.
  • The big picture: While this is clearly the fair thing to do for athletes, it also creates what is essentially college sports' version of free agency.

Zoom out ... Major college sports are a uniquely American concept. Nowhere else in the world are elite high school athletes recruited to play for universities.

  • So, while it's hard for Americans to imagine the NCAA model being upended, it's worth remembering that it's hard for non-Americans to imagine it existing in the first place.

Go deeper

Apr 21, 2021 - Sports

Taking a knee, other protests still banned at Tokyo Olympics

A shadow is cast as the sun sets behind the Olympic Rings on April 21 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: by Carl Court/Getty Images

Athletes who take a knee or demonstrate with other forms of protest during the Tokyo Olympics this summer will be punished under a ban endorsed by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

The state of play: The announcement backing the protection of neutrality for the Olympic Games comes one day after the world watched a Minneapolis jury convict a former police officer of murdering George Floyd, a Black man. The incident last summer sparked global demonstrations for racial justice.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Apr 22, 2021 - Sports

Concussion study inspires practice limits to college football preseason

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Major changes could be coming to college football's grueling preseason in an attempt to create a safer environment for athletes.

Driving the news: In response to a recent study that found that most concussions occur during practice, the Football Oversight Committee plans to recommend new rules for fall camp.

Bernie Sanders and other progressives introduce bill pushing free college

Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.) makes his way back from a vote on the Senate floor on April 14. Photo: by Caroline Brehman-CQ-Roll Call, Inc./Getty Images

Top progressives in Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), introduced a bill Wednesday that would make college free for most Americans.

How it works: Higher education would be subsidized through taxes on many Wall Street transactions, NPR reports.