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The NCAA makes rules, not laws

NCAA president Mark Emmert
NCAA president Mark Emmert. Photo: Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

With California's Fair Pay to Play Act dominating headlines and lawmakers across the country considering similar bills, it's important to remember that the NCAA doesn't have any authority when it comes to actual legislation.

The big picture: While the NCAA has its own rules and regulations for its member institutions and athletes, it doesn't have any ability to actually enforce actual laws — the ones passed by the government. Of course, that doesn't mean that running afoul of its own rules — resulting, for example, in the suspension of a cash-cow football team — wouldn't be a death knell for an institution's athletic program.

The Ringer's Rodger Sherman breaks down this maddening situation even further:

  • "Sometimes this can get confusing, because the NCAA has previously tried to punish schools that break laws (like when it issued sanctions against Penn State for its officials' failure to report the crimes of Jerry Sandusky) and because courts and federal agencies have previously decided to enforce NCAA [rules] (like the FBI's attempt to crack down on corruption in college basketball)."
  • "When a state government passes a law asserting jurisdiction over how college athletics works, though, the NCAA can do little else besides whine and hide."

In other words: "It's illegal for an athlete to receive a huge payment from a booster in the same way it's illegal for you to collect $1,000 in Monopoly money when passing go."

Go deeper: NCAA asks California governor not to sign student athlete "Fair Pay" bill